It’s been eight years since graphics artist Kay Hartmann won a battle with breast cancer. Today, at 61, she is healthy and grateful. But she is not satisfied.
Troubling questions remain about the disease -- questions Hartmann thinks are not being adequately addressed. The associate professor in art and design at Chicago’s Columbia College wants to know:
-What is causing the number of women in the U.S. diagnosed and treated with breast cancer to go from 1 in 30-40 women in the 1940s, to one in eight women today?
-Why has this concern had so little attention compared to the focus on treatment?
-Why, when so much money has been spent on breast cancer treatment and research, is still so little known about what causes the disease?
-Have we given up trying to cure it because of the industry that has grown up around breast cancer?
When artists Suzanne Cohan-Lange and Richard Lange invited Hartmann in summer 2012 to create an exhibit for their Blink Gallery in Michigan City, Ind., expressing her concerns, she poured her frustration into a collection of graphic designs that are a call to action. The gallery owners and Hartmann created large digital prints of a portion of a woman’s body with superimposed printed information, quotes and questions, each intended to provoke thinking about fighting breast cancer in a different way. The exhibit is titled, “What’s Wrong with this Picture.”
Since then Hartmann has been encouraged by further attention. Another exhibit of the artwork showed in May and June at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago. “I got some really neat responses from that.” And she was surprised and pleased to see an article in Glamour magazine in 2012. “Lots of articles focus on treatment once you get it. This article looks at how young women might help to prevent it, and that’s great,” said Hartmann, of New Buffalo, Mich.
And she likes this quote from “John Rock’s Error,” from Malcolm Gladwell ‘s What the Dog Saw: “For young women, avoiding breast cancer may be as easy as using a new form of birth control (GnRHA) that limits the number of periods in a woman’s lifetime.”
As for women of her age, Hartmann said, “I don’t think women of my generation are as afraid of cancer as they were; they’re facing it down, in a lot of different ways. I have many friends, women in their 60s, who have dealt with breast cancer. They’re standing up to it and dealing with it -- and they’re beginning to think that toxicity plays a role (in contracting cancer).
“Then too, I think people are waking up to the fact that cancer is a big business. I’m not saying big business is bad, but that it wants to perpetuate itself.”
Hartmann said much more attention, time and money have been spent on treatment options than on looking at possible environmental causes, like toxins in air, water and food.
“Having gone through this disease, my conclusion is that we need to illuminate what the priorities are in funding and research, and how we can change those priorities. That’s what I hope people take away from this exhibit.
“I don’t think it’s me that’s driving this bus -- staring at cancer for what it is, all the aspects of it -- but I feel I’m a part of it.”