WORDS Catherine Randall Berresheim
“The focal point of each twenty-inch-square canvas
is the black-and-white photograph of the face of each survivor.”
Graphic and advertising designer Leslie Haines knew from the moment she learned of her breast cancer diagnosis she would integrate that arduous experience into her art, but she didn’t know exactly how it would manifest. Her new collection, The Real Wonder Women, is the culmination of her journey through and beyond the C word.
Most who are familiar with Haines’s work think of the collages with big block letters and whimsical animals that give the impression of Victorian engravings. The Real Wonder Women is not only a departure from her previous work; it is the antithesis of the demure Victorian woman. On the contrary, these are portraits of feminine power and transformation.
Her subjects are women from a support group. “I met these women at the After Breast Cancer program (ABC) through the Green Hills YMCA,” Haines says. “I was one year past treatment, and I liked the idea of rebuilding muscle mass and learning about proper nutrition.” She encountered something more significant than self-care tips.
ABC offers “journey sessions” where “women talk about what you want your life to be like after cancer. Then we come up with a plan of action,” Haines explains.
This collective consciousness was reminiscent of Haines’s unique approach to graphic art. Her collage method combines scanned images from books and newsprint, letterpress books with a Hatch Print feel, and multiple layers of Photoshop wizardry set against bold color.
“I haven’t applied this technique on something so personal,” Haines says. Her self-portrait is done in her favorite oranges and features an image of superhero Wonder Woman. “My daughter gave me that nickname while I was undergoing treatment.” The wave of breast-cancer-pink ribbon forms a W and is going to be tattooed over her port scar.
The focal point of each twenty-inch-square canvas is the black-and-white photograph of the face of each survivor. Elements are scattered across the surface giving clues of passions, favorite colors, and most importantly, what words and images guided them through recovery. The message is clearly complex and as layered as the images that comprise the collage itself. In fact, these prints are narratives of the epic journey of a hero’s quest.
One woman loves music and her grandfather’s violin is featured; another is an avid reader so text watermarks the background. Song lyrics, sheet music, and orchids all become totems. All tell their individual story.
They also share a similar loss and alteration, which unites them. “In the wake of sixteen rounds of chemo, a full course of radiation, and a double mastectomy, I saw this stunning work of art and thought that I was beautiful. I’m still here. Vanity is the folly of young women who just haven’t learned the hard way yet. I am grateful to know better,” says survivor Keltie Peay. This is the best lesson art can offer.
For additional information, please visit www.lesliehaines.com.