Local Artists Contribute Humor and Beauty In The Fight Against Breast Cancer
By Laura Rodd
Originally published in the Tioga County Courier, used with permission.
“2009 Brazieres For A Cure: A Breast Cancer Awareness Project” is an extremely humorous traveling exhibit of “re-imagined” bras. Sponsored by the Common Threads Quilters Guild (CTQG) of Vestal, over 100 donated plain white Maidenform bras were placed in the hands of quilters and artists throughout the Southern Tier. These gifted individuals were asked to paint, quilt, embroider or embellish their “blank canvas” into a work of art that conveyed an effective breast cancer prevention message in an innovative way. These dazzling creations not only aim to educate the public on breast cancer awareness but will also be up for auction at on Friday, November 6th at the Binghamton YWCA, located at
The unique designs and artistic techniques used to create these “Brazieres” are diverse and far ranging in nature. Take for example the “Barak O’Brama” braziere that features a pink silky pink background on which yellow stars and the 2008 Democratic Party Campaign slogan “Yes, We Can!” has been stitched. The message being that women can fight this disease successfully and that our nation can find a cure. Or get a good laugh from “The Watermelons” braziere that is visually lovely, having been constructed from varying shades of green fabric with small black “seeds” applied to the straps and neckline which point downward to showcase a miniature red gingham picnic blanket and basket. Other bras in this collection feature birds & bees (including the wonderful “Blue Footed Booby”), the Garden of Eden, abstract flowers, seashells, pompoms, cow print fabric, and black vinyl with zippers.
Three local women from Tioga County (Renee Gaylord of Newark Valley, Estie Mowry and Ruth Manzer of Owego) took up the challenge of using this unconventional canvas to create a piece of art with a purpose. The results of their labor inspire, comfort, encourage and inform the public.
Renee Gaylord has worked in the health care field for nearly 30 years. Years ago when she was transiting between learning in the environment of a college campus to practicing her knowledge in a hospital setting she was placed on a student residency. She found herself assigned to a surgical rotation. Her first experience in an operating room involved the removal of a female breast during a radical mastectomy. Witnessing this procedure had a lasting impact on Gaylord and strengthened her resolve to help in finding cures for diseases while helping those in medical need receive the best care possible. By covering her bra with a star fabric on a blue background she hoped to convey the message that a woman fighting to survive breast cancer has heroine or “star-like” qualities. “Women facing breast cancer find the courage inside themselves to fight…they seem to shine with hope”.
Estie Mowry’s quilted bra has sass and verve. Estie considered the importance of the message and just how hard living with breast cancer can be for women. Being an accomplished quilter, she decided to cover the undergarment with camouflage fleece and stitch a vivid pink boa along the straps and neckline seams. In place of the traditional soldier’s name tag (usually featured over the left breast of military issued fatigues) Estie placed a pink tag with the following written message “Fight Like A Girl!”. As a professional Long Arm Quilter who works from home and instructs quilting classes at the Churn Dash in Owego and Sew Many Quilts in
Ruth Manzer sits on the opposite spectrum of experience with those diagnosed with cancer. Having been a nurse for eighteen years (10 years being spent in the oncology department) Ruth Manzer is very familiar with breast cancer awareness campaigns and the realities a cancer patient faces; the shock and despair experienced by the patient and her family when the diagnosis is first made, the challenge of becoming educated quickly on treatment options and success rates of procedures, the discomfort and pain that can occur as side effects of chemotherapy, the shock when a patient losses her hair and eyelashes, and the emotional support that can sustain and help a patient through the medical and emotional journey of cancer treatment.
Currently Manzer is a Cancer Nurse Coordinator for the United Health Services (UHS), which she finds to be a “very fulfilling” job. Her main duties is to provide both information and inspiration to patients during “high stress, critical times” in their treatment program and recovery process. It was this very work that gave her the idea for her bra design.
Focusing heavily on symbolic tools of her trade, Ruth Manzer has created the “Eyes On You” Braziere. Using a stethoscope, she fashioned a hanger on which to display her creative piece. The Maidenform bra is “padded” on the inside of each cup with surgical bowls and on the outside with clean, strikingly white soft material. On each cup she appliquéd brilliant blue eyes featuring the insignia of the medical profession as pupils and long, false eyelashes. A pair of surgical scissors for bandage cutting is tacked to the stethoscope and a “United Against Cancer” pin rests on the left breast cup.
The “United Against Cancer” pin holds much significance for Manzer as that was the cancer awareness and prevention campaign that UHS sponsored last year in partnership with Senator Libous. This effort provided free screenings for skin and prostrate cancer (as well as vouchers for free mammograms to eligible women) to Broome and
“There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that Senator Libous, who was so instrumental in helping men receive free prostrate screening and so passionate about this campaign of early detection of cancer, was himself recently diagnosed with prostrate cancer. However, because detection of his disease occurred very early the success of his future treatment has been greatly improved”, said Manzer.
With her “Eyes On You” creation, Ruth Manzer wishes to convey her belief that professionals in the medical field are striving everyday to help improve treatments for cancer patients, and that the health care community is dedicated to top quality patient care.
The Tioga County Historical Society and Museum, located at