Sunday, October 30, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness, 1777

A number of years ago I found myself standing before a painting of a female patient in bed, surrounded by guests and various attendants. One side of her chest was covered in blood. I was looking at a mastectomy from 1777. The piece was created as an ex voto, a devotional painting, given as an offering of gratitude to a saint.

Translation of the text on the painting :
Doña Josefa Peres Maldonado offers this monument of her gratitude to the Most Holy Christ of Encino, venerated in the Church of Triana, and to the Most Holy Virgin Mary of El Pueblo, in perpetual memory of the benefit, due to her piety, that resulted from an operation that took place on 25th of April 1777, when the surgeon Don Pedro Maillé removed six cancerous tumors from her breast, in the presence of the gentlemen and ladies depicted on this canvas. Although the wound closed perfectly on the 25th of July 1777, other accidents befell her from which she died on Friday, the 5th of September, at 3 p.m., with clear signs of the patronage of the Holy Image and of her salvation.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month, aka October, comes to a close I wanted to post this surprising early depiction. I found a number of other early visualizations of the disease, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries. They are just about all, medical in nature, and are way more graphic than the Maldonado ex voto. And way more horrifying than any Halloween post I could come up with. By the end of October, breast cancer might seem like it's all pink ribbons and teddy bears, but these pictures can remind us of what all the pink was about to begin with.

For multiple views about the breast-cancer awareness movement, listen to “Pink Fatigue” on NPR, and the interview with an outraged Barbara Ehrenreich. The writer, whose latest book is Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, was treated for breast cancer in 2001. Ehrenreich challenges the pink-ribbon culture, with its cutesiness and heavily marketed product tie-ins. She resents, as well, the “survivor” label and the current emphasis on embracing breast cancer as a growth experience.

"This is ugly, this is nasty," she says. "I want to know why it happens and stop it."

For more Ehrenreich, read Smile, You’ve Got Cancer.

Kamata Keishu, 1851
Excision of a cancerous growth from a woman's breast, an operation which Hanaoka Seishu first carried out in 1804 using general anesthetic.
Wellcome Library, London

Lorenz Heister, 1748
Latent or occult breast cancer, mastectomy and
relevant surgical instruments.
Wellcome Library, London

circa 1675
Illustration of a woman having a breast operation, accompanied by a close up of the surgical instruments used. From a compendium of popular medicine and surgery, receipts, etc., in German. Compiled for the use of a House of the Franciscan Order, probably in Austria, or South Germany.
Wellcome Library, London

Jacob Nicolas Henri, 1860s
Nicolas Henri Jacob (1782–1871), was a student of the French painter Jacques Louis David. He illustrated the eight-volume treatise, Atlas of Anatomy by French anatomist, Jean-Baptiste Marc Bougery (1797–1849).
Source: Cerebral coffins, Medical Illustrations

Afflicted, Gentlefolk Leeds, 1841
One of six portraits forming a group of works entitled "Gentlefolk of Leeds Afflicted with Disease." Mrs Prince of Coborough Street, after the surgical removal of her right breast.
Wellcome Library, London

Mastectomy, Johns Hopkins Medical Reports
Source: The National Library of Medicine

Attributed to a Dutch artist, 17th century
The operator excises the breast with the "tenaculum helvetianum". His assistant has a case of lancets etc. attached to his belt. A set of cautery irons is smouldering on a stand on the left. The patient is seated, held by two men: she appears to be fainting. On the right, a man in a tall hat points towards her: he is possibly meant to be a physician.
Wellcome Library, London

Lam Qua, 1830s
A woman with a tumour in her right breast which
is expanding over her trunk.
Wellcome Library, London

One of the many pink bears out there. provides the opportunity to make a statement and be the winners you all are in the walk of life …”

The trigger for Ehrenreich’s backlash against pink-think cutesiness was an ad for a pink breast cancer teddy bear she saw while waiting for her mammogram results. "That was kind of an existential turning point for me because I realized I'm not afraid of dying, but I am terrified of dying with a pink teddy bear tucked under my arm."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Recent iPhone Paintings

Connecticut Road

An assortment of recent iPhone paintings (using the Brushes app) to kick off the weekend ...

Muji Bag

Grace Building


(this was in Starbucks)

W. 73rd St.

Change Purse

Tyrants in a Tent

In early May, a mere four days after Bin Laden’s death was announced, I attended the Housing Works 'Design on a Dime' fundraiser at Metropolitan Pavilion. It was only upon arriving at the Mideast-themed booth of designer Michael Bagley, that I took out my camera. On the tented wall were portraits of America’s favorite tyrannical trio. How perfect to see the “poster boys” of treachery and terror--Saddam, Muammar, and Osama--rendered as actual Warholized pop posters.

Qaddafi’s youngest son had been killed the previous week, and the world was watching and wondering: Would an exile be successfully brokered, or would Libya’s maniacal ruler “fight to his last drop of blood,” as he had vowed?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't Read This While Driving!

(via flickr Christian Montone)

Driver’s manuals are probably the only official booklet a teenager will gladly study. For along with a successful parallel parking job, passing a written exam is required for a driver’s license. The manuals, of course, are available online now, with some states even charging for a printed version. Here’s a selection, most from a time before “texting” was a word.

Illinois, 1958

Illinois, 1965

Illinois, 1969

New York, 1962

U.S. Army, 1942

Code Rousseau, France, 1972

Australia, 1950s

General Motors, 1953

Virginia, 2002-2003

Florida, 1950s

Top, Iowa and Arizona. Bottom New York, 1959,60,61.

Missouri, early 1960s

Oklahoma, 2010

Rules of the Road, 2003
(Interactive driver's ed course)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

All Time Covers

No, there isn't a hyphen missing between “All” and “Time.” This image really is every cover of Time magazine, from the first issue in 1923 through the summer of 2009, 4535 covers in total. I uploaded the file at it's large size, so you can click to see the image bigger.

See more of the Mapping Time project by Jeremy Douglass and Lev Manovich of Software Studies Initiative, here.

Via La boite verte

Friday, October 14, 2011

ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert

Chain Gang (All Me), 2004

What appears, at first, to be a jumble of white dashes on black, turns out to be prisoners on a chain gang. Blizzards of white dots are vast expanses of cotton, waiting to be picked for pennies a pound. This is the visual language of 67-year old African American artist, Winfred Rembert. His paintings--actually, hides of leather, carved, tooled and dyed--create a graphic diary illustrating life in the segregated rural south.

“ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert,” a feature length documentary directed and produced by Vivian Ducat, premiers this week at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Chain Gang - The Ditch, 2005

As Rembert’s experiences unfold on screen, we learn that the paintings are completely autobiographical. That includes the chain gang, on which he worked, while serving a prison sentence. He started in the cotton fields as a young child, when he picked alongside “Mama,” the great aunt who raised him.

Rembert’s visual story telling is especially astute when he depicts scenes of everyday activities in the environs of his native Cuthbert, Georgia. Pictures of pool halls and juke joints usually include portraits of specific characters.

On Mama's Cotton Sack, 2002

The artist’s remembrances are riveting in their detail as he recalls the racism he suffered (including a near lynching) the poverty in which he was raised, and his civil rights activism.

Fascinating too, is Rembert's personal journey as an artist. As a kid he made his own toys from whatever materials he could find. Though he picked up leather tooling in prison during the 1970s, it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that Rembert started to translate his memories into images. With shows at Yale University Art Gallery, and Adleson Gallery in New York, his work has gained momentum with collectors.

“ALL ME” will also be shown at festivals in Chicago, Hot Springs and Albany, Georgia. Visit the film’s website for more info and all the details.

Chain Gang Picking Cotton, 2004

Family Picking Cotton, 2003

Saturday Shopping Day, 2000

The Wood Boy, 2007

Jeff's Pool Room, 2003

Smilin' Ben Shorter, 2009

Sugar Cane (Patsy's Mother), 2008

The Baptism, 2003

I got to meet the artist after a
screening of the film during the summer.
Photo: Joan Morgan

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Signed by Design?

Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, 1962

Here are some particularly well-signed album covers. (Hey, how do you sign a download?) Some even had me wondering, if they weren’t, in fact, designed to be signed?

The Beatles, Help!, 1965

Harry Belafonte, Belafonte, 1956

Fleetwood Mac, Rumors, 1977
Designed to be signed?

Stephen Stills, Stills, 1975

Aerosmith, Draw the Line, 1977

Tony Bennett, I Wanna Be Around, 1963

Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run, 1975

Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy, 1980

Images are from auction sites and Joe Merchant's flickr site of close to 500 signed LPs.
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