A beautiful way to raise awareness

October 08, 2006|By Susan Reimer

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THESE bras, these beautiful objects of art, it is hard to remember why we ever wanted to burn bras. Or go without them.

It is hard to believe bras were ever political or the repository of our anger.

These fanciful creations are among nearly 100 decorated bras solicited by LifeBridge Health to mark October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

They will be auctioned off at "BraVo," a gala at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Oct. 25, and the money will go, not to research, but to a fund that helps breast cancer patients.

The fund, which benefits patients at Sinai and Northwest hospitals, gives away about $30,000 a year for things like wigs or prosthetic bras or cab rides home from chemotherapy. Sometimes, when the patients are uninsured, the fund pays for a whole lot more than that.

But for the moment, let's put the tough realities of breast cancer aside and focus on the fanciful places it can take those women - and men - who are touched by it.

Ronnie Footlick will tell you that she's not an artist - "I'm a beer distributor." But she is also on the board at Sinai Hospital and a breast cancer survivor of 12 years, and she jumped at the chance to make a beautiful bra out of a terrible disease.

So she created "Hope Grows Here," a bra that is more like a window box, overflowing as it is with silk flowers.

"I knew what I wanted to say," she said. "I wanted to say that there is beauty after breast cancer. Because it is one of the ugliest things that can happen to a woman," said the Pikesville grandmother.

Hot-glued to her bra are bumblebees and a picket fence among the flowers. "Because every woman, whether she admits it or not, once thought that she wanted the white picket fence."

Many of the other bras are also decorated with flowers or feathers or jewels and sequins. That's kind of a surprise because so many women, even those not suffering from breast cancer, have a tough time thinking of their breasts as pretty.

Other bras have a sense of humor, such as "These Too Shall Fall," a bra decorated with dominos. Or "Boob Tube," decorated with knobs and wires from a VCR. Or "Bust in Show," a bra made to look like a poodle skirt.

And not all are the inspiration of women. Former Sun political cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher was true to form with "Bust of President," in which a cartoon sculpture of the president's face - and a pair of enormous caricatured ears - decorate the front of a bra.

Kelly Ripken, the wife of Baltimore baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr., struck out on her own with a travel - not baseball - theme.

`Out on a limb'

"We didn't want to do another run or walk or raffle," said Rudy Miller, Sinai's vice president of marketing and community relations.

She got the idea for decorating bras from a woman in Texas who had asked her crafty friends to decorate bras and then posted the results on the Web.

"We are not making light of this disease. We are trying to draw awareness to it. But you have to go out on a limb to get people to pay attention," said Miller.

The bras are remarkable in their craftsmanship, as well as their insight.

Desmond Beach, a 28-year-old Baltimore sculptor who teaches at a Washington private school, spent perhaps 30 hours during a vacation at the beach hand-beading a bra he decorated in tribute to a grandmotherly figure in his life.

Her name is Lilly and that is the title of the bra, which is decorated with a lily that twines its way up the strap. It is one of the most delicately beautiful bras in the collection.

"I wanted to honor her," said Beach of the breast cancer survivor. "I wanted something as precious and important as I see her."

Sue Ebert, a Hampden hairdresser and artist, wanted her bra to reflect the fact that all of us have been, or will be, touched by breast cancer in some way. So her bra is decorated with a mirror mosaic.

Her friends, neighbors and customers contributed the peacock feathers "that will carry our fallen sisters to a higher power."

She hopes the bras go for $1,500 or $2,000 each at the auction. "It was a fun project, but it brought everyone's awareness up, too," she said.

Butterflies, a memory

Artist and art teacher Julie Kotler watched her friend Susan die of breast cancer at 37, leaving three small children behind.

"And at the funeral, there were millions of butterflies. Everywhere, flying around in circles. Everywhere you looked.

"The butterflies made me think of her. Being here and not being here."

The result is "Braterfly," a charming and lovely bra made to honor her friend.

"It was a way to heal," said Kotler. "And a way to have something beautiful come out of something so horrible."

Perhaps the most telling of the decorated bras is "Window Dressing," created by Robin Weiman and her co-workers at Drapery Contractors.

The bra is gussied up with all the fabric, trim and fringes you'd use in an elaborate window treatment. But the bra might say something else about a woman's breasts.

That at the end of the day, perhaps that's all breasts are - window dressing. That they might only obscure what is inside.


To hear an audio clip of this column and others, go to baltimoresun.com/reimer.



An exhibit and auction of one-of-a-kind, hand-decorated bras


Sponsored by LifeBridge to benefit breast cancer patients at Sinai and Northwest hospitals


Wednesday, Oct. 25


Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.


Open house and silent auction from noon to 4 p.m. Free


Cocktails and live auction from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., $60 each. Tickets must be purchased by Oct. 18.


Lifebridge Health at 410-601-4438 or online at bravolifebridge.org

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