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. One of the bra artists is Barb Kettler of St. Joseph. Kettler is a graphic artist who works for GMP Co. (formerly Golden Plump chicken company). Kettler is a good friend of Ruth Petermeir, 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.
Inspired by Petermeier’s efforts, Kettler took up the challenge of designing two bras for “Bra Day USA” last year. One of the bras was a “chicken bra” covered with feathers; the other was entitled “My Cup Runneth Over,” which showed images of hope and love. This year she’s doing a “Wine Rack Bra,” with images of wine bottles on it.
“It’s a fun thing to do,” Kettler said. “I knew quite a few people who had breast cancer so it’s definitely a good cause. And I’m happy to help raise awareness.”
Kettler said creating art-work bras is so different from her work for GMP Co., which involves designing all kinds of computer-generated advertising for the chicken industry.
“This Bra Day event allows me to bring out a different way of expressing art, and I’m glad this will help bring awareness to this disease that affects so many people and the ones we love,” Kettler said. “People have so much talent, and I encourage others to get involved and have some fun while raising 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.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.