Cold Comfort

Breast-cancer survivors put fears on ice in "melt-down" exhibition

The imagery is reminiscent of German expressionism, a movement whose work is said to have developed new symbols for creatures that haunt the imagination after a tragedy. For the Germans, the tragedy was World War I; for the breast-cancer artists, it's a death dance with a life-threatening illness.

"People want to think about healing as peace and love and serenity, and there is that part of it, yet healing also involves anger, anguish, fear, depression and other scary emotions. The artist is inclined to look at those parts," says Sridharan.

She and other artists agree that the excluded paintings were too strong for the hospital and cancer society settings. Still, they wanted to do a show where no holds would be barred.

"I knew the Icehouse's reputation for free expression," says Sridharan. "But they only do installations, not exhibits. We contacted Helen Hestenes, the curator of the Melting Museum, and she came back with the idea of The Invisible Woman. What I like is that it is there for anyone who wants to participate."

It's a week or so before the show, and Sridharan has set out three "test ice pieces" in her Tempe weaving studio, Corn River Textiles. The ice has become transparent, revealing its contents. In the first dish, a compact disc is decorated by a pretty mint green wire that uncoils to form a three-dimensional breast shape. A straight green wire cuts scarlike across a second CD. In another dish sits an ice chunk melting around the seashells suspended in it. Some of the shells fall away and sit alone in a pool of water. The third piece shows tiny skeins of different colored yarn ready to be woven, a contemplation on what happens to an artist when she dies.

"When Helen first suggested The Invisible Woman, it was kind of a shock," says Sridharan. "I don't like pointing out the thing that I have the most trouble dealing with--my death, what happens when my body's gone. But I like the idea that people can bring their own ideas; I like the idea of the ritual, of that many people coming together."

What will people who haven't faced breast cancer get out of this? "They might contemplate their own death," suggests Sridharan, "or their own lives."

The Invisible Woman takes shape at 7 p.m. Sunday, October 27, in the Cathedral Room of the Icehouse, 429 West Jackson (258-2327). Freeze bags are available at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

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