Breast cancer survivor funnels anger into art

2012-09-02T00:00:00Z Breast cancer survivor funnels anger into artBy Vanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

When Kay Hartmann was diagnosed with breast cancer, first she was frightened. Then she got angry.

Disappointed with the information she uncovered, Hartmann funneled key information and statistics into art, in a show that runs Sept. 7 through Nov. 18 at Blink Contemporary Art Gallery, 1709 Franklin St., in Michigan City.

It is an interactive and critical look at the breast cancer "experience," posing questions about the growing number of cases and few treatment options, despite research dollars being poured into it.

The 60-year-old New Buffalo, Mich., resident wonders why research doesn't focus more on the causes of breast cancer, why rates are higher now than 75 years ago and why more treatment options aren't available. 

"I'm not a scientist or a doctor, so I can't claim that I know the answers to these perplexing questions," she said. "As an information designer, I can only shine a light on this information and hope that the right eyes will see it."

Hartmann was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago.

"Since my experience with breast cancer, I've wanted to share, in a creative way, some of the information I discovered when I researched this disease, things like survival rates, incidence rates and causes," she said. "The diagnosis of breast cancer is so frightening that at first, I was overwhelmed by all the information."

Hartmann said that, at a distance of seven years, she has more perspective about the disease.

"However, knowing what I know makes me angry and frustrated with the 'breast cancer industry,'" she said.

Hartmann, an associate professor in the art and design department at Columbia College in Chicago, said her best friend from college died from the disease 20 years ago.

When Hartmann was diagnosed, she wanted to know as much as possible. She learned that more time and money has been spent on the same three breast cancer treatments: surgery, radiation and chemo than has been spent on looking at possible environmental causes.

"Genetic research has made women aware of the inherited gene for breast cancer, but other than prophylactic surgery, not much advice is offered by the medical profession about how to avoid getting breast cancer," she said. "I am particularly hopeful that younger women will look at breast cancer research and realize that avoiding breast cancer may be as easy as using a new form of birth control that limits the number of periods in a woman’s lifetime."

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