by Dennis Dalman
Bras, bras and more bras – of all shapes, sizes and colors – will be exhibited starting July 1 in a show entitled “BRAsterpiece” at the River’s Edge Convention Center in downtown St. Cloud.
“BRAsterpiece” is a play on words for “Masterpiece,” and its BRA stands for Breast Reconstruction Awareness.
The exhibit, which is designed to raise awareness about breast cancer, will run through Aug. 31. It will feature at least 50 bras.
The bras are actual bras that have been turned into works of art by many local people. They range from whimsical to wildly comical, from thoughtful to stunning. Four of the bra artists hail from Sartell, the husband, son and two daughters of Jenny Grabow, who is a patient coordinator at MidSota Plastic Surgery, a place well known for breast-reconstruction procedures, mostly following mastectomies, partial or radical, as the result of breast cancer.
Grabow’s husband, Shawn, is an outdoorsman who collects things he finds, such as wild-turkey feathers. Shawn decided to use those feathers for his artwork bra. He glued them on, then made a pair of eyes out of black felt. Son Brady helped his father design the feather “Hoot” bra, as they call it. Daughter Kenzie, 17, created a “bedazzled bra” covered in dazzling sequins; and daughter Paige, 12, made a “Pac Man Bra,” painted on one side to look like a Pac Man and the other side the Pac Man’s “enemy.”
A good friend of (which) Grabow’s lost his wife to cancer when she was only 50. The entire Grabow family is well aware of breast cancer because of Jenny’s work at MidSota. They are all hoping others, too, will become more aware of the disease.
Ruth Petermeir is a medical photographer at MidSota Plastic Surgeons, who is also in charge of marketing and communications for “Bra Day USA,” the national campaign to raise breast-cancer awareness.
Bra Day actually started two years ago in Canada. This is its second year in the United States, Petermeier said. Although the BRAmeister exhibit will mention Bra Day USA, the actual Bra Day is slated for Oct. 16 at Le St. Germain in St. Cloud and will feature a presentation by a breast-reconstruction plastic surgeon.
MidSota Clinic is well known for plastic-surgery procedures, including breast reconstructions. Petermeier said only seven of 10 women are informed of the option of breast reconstruction at the time of their breast-cancer diagnosis.
“It’s something all women should be made aware of,” she said. “Not every woman chooses that option, but for many who do, it gives them something to look forward to after treatment. Many women are also uninsured or underinsured, and they tend to be forgotten.”
Eve Wallinga, a breast-cancer survivor who lives in St. Cloud, is another bra artist whose work will be featured in “BRAsterpiece.” Her work of art expresses the idea that “the lowest ebb is the turn of the tide,” a message of hope for breast-cancer victims. The bra shows a little seashore with waves lapping onto it and is decorated with actual little seashells Wallinga has collected.
“Breast reconstruction is important because it’s a way of taking control of one’s body again,” Wallinga said.
Wallinga was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, two years after one of her best friends, Jane Bennett of Sartell, was diagnosed with the disease. Bennett died of breast cancer two years ago after a long struggle.
“I’m doing really good,” Wallinga said. “It’s been seven years since I was diagnosed. Just five years of being cancer-free is a big milestone, so hopefully it’s all behind me.”