Leah Henry, artist, Breast Strokes, ATL

Remember the phrase “Beauty for Ashes”? You know, it’s when you trade in your ashes or bad thing for something beautiful. It can be a redeemed soul or an upgrade. The exchange is simply having something you thought was bad turn into something sublime.

Like so many survivors, when I first saw my scars, beauty was not what I saw at all! But after some time and thought, I figured I might as well be content and come to some sort of resolution about how I felt about my body. I mean, I carry all kinds of scars with me, childhood bruises and scrapes. (I was a bit klutzy. I remember running and falling more than a couple of times. Therefore, some of my old scars remain, even if they are now faint in appearance.)How we initially see ourselves after going through breast cancer surgeries can be a bit negative, but we usually have more positive view
later. How I Felt When I Looked in the Mirror?



One way of highlighting this change has been through a number of art exhibitions where artists painted breast cancer thriver bodies to raise awareness and funds. This body painting made scars more or less visible and in combination with the artist’s view resulted in a “more beautiful” body.


This elevation of the human form releases the body canvas to celebrate life. So much so, some of the thrivers in the Colors of Courage, Curate Show (Hampton Roads, Va) wanted to wear their body paint home. This PBS show, Curate 757, profiled the body-painting artist and models. It was a truly beautiful, contemplative, and inspiring display. 


A similar art exhibit was held in Atlanta a year or two ago. Breast Strokes canvas artwork consists of 35 women who had their torsos painted and photographed to raise money for breast cancer advocacy, education and prevention. This exhibit, however, featured multiple artists. Many artists said they had “never done any body-painting”, but they all rose to the occasion. Talking with the models, who were survivors, helped the artists design appropriate artwork for each one based on the model’s story. 



I can relate to this. Although, I have not had my body painted, I did want my upper torso tattooed after completing my surgeries. Then I learned a special vegetable dye must be used on cancer survivors (I’m not sure that’s true.) and it doesn’t last. That nixed it for me. I am not a fan of needles, so going through that more than once was too much for me to contemplate. Besides, knowing me I would have to show it off and that wouldn’t work either! 😱


We all carry scars, some visible, some not so visible. At this age, it’s about a body and life well-lived. So, my body is not going to be that baby-fresh one, or that teen-clean one, or that worked hard and put away wet-one or that fixed-up one on the outside, but oh so fragile-one inside. It’s going to be the one that shows what I’ve been through and come out of!


We all carry scars, some visible, some not so visible. Click To Tweet

What Counts?
It’s what we do with our body that counts. How are you treating your body today?


Body-painted Art Exhibits:

Breast Strokes



“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it”. Confucious


Dr. Harriette


Let me know what you think.