The fragility of life is something artist Shirley Klinghoffer knows all too well. In 1999, the artist exhibited her glass sculpture forms inspired by the radiation treatments of breast cancer patients. Years later, as she was putting the finishing touches on another breast cancer inspired art piece, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After winning her battle with the disease, Klinghoffer decided to revisit the theme of fragility by displaying her powerful glass artwork at the Museum of Glass.
Conformal radiation treatment is something most breast cancer patients are familiar with, and Klinghoffer's delicately shaped glass forms give light to what is usually a private moment in a hospital. The main display features 18 glass torsos lying face down on a sheet of reflective glass; heads tucked into arms shield unknown faces from the harsh glare of radiation. Each form represents a real woman who dealt with the uncertainties, fear and pain of breast cancer. These art pieces were created long before the artist was diagnosed with breast cancer, and “Shirley Klinghoffer: CRT Revisited” provides her with an opportunity to share her own experiences through a much deeper personal lens.
In addition to the stirring glass art pieces, the exhibit includes a wall lined with the original torso-shaped hospital armatures. The discarded armatures were used to create the glass pieces, and a blast of radiation forever imprinted them with the physical images of breast cancer patients. Klinghoffer turned these armatures from trash to treasure by melting sheets of glass over the forms.
Klinghoffer's Witty in Pink is a recent addition to the exhibit, and it too is delicate, yet powerful. This mixed media piece looks somewhat like a pink sunflower. Its round bronze center surrounded by layers of pink tulle gave the artist hope and strength as she dealt with breast cancer treatments. Klinghoffer successfully uses glass, discarded trash and mixed media to explore themes of beauty amidst the dark ugliness of breast cancer.
Want to see more? Check out the creative way this artist uses breast cancer survivor's bodies to create beautiful art.