For a year and a half I created installations using the pink shoes donated to Haus Leben for their Pink Shoe Day event. Each of the installations are part of the Haus Leben collection.
“Community” is based on the bushes and hedges in cities that you walk up to and hear loads of birds inside. You never really see a bird, but you hear them interacting. I always want to get inside and see what they are doing. “Community” is 200 cm x150 cm x80 cm and the “leaves” are approximately 800 of the more than 6000 shoes that have been decorated and donated for Pink Shoe Day. When you approach the piece you hear something, but you aren’t quite sure because the sound is intended to be louder inside than outside. If you listen long enough, you realise that it is the sound of women laughing. This is meant to represent the role of Haus Leben. They have a variety of ways to help cancer patients and their families deal with the non-medical issues, including healthy cooking, meditation, Tai Chi, art, music, etc. They provide a community that aids the healing process. While talking to a patient in the art class, I asked why she had chosen to paint a particular image. She replied, “I want to LIVE my life.” The art work “Community” is filled with the laughter of life and the bush is Haus Leben, who provides a platform of enablement. The shoes are the community at large because Haus Leben is made possible by donations. The final concept is made up of three hedges. The other two to have sound actually taken from activities at Haus Leben. “Community” is the latest in a series of installations I’m doing with the pink shoes. The goal is to collect 70,000 because that’s how many women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Germany each year. The art installations provide a physical response to that number and the action of painting the shoes provides people with a safe place to learn more about prevention and early detection of this typically taboo subject. Each group that gathers to paint or collect shoes creates its own little community
alone we fall
It is comprised of panels that can not stand alone, but form a protective wall when connected. In the current configuration it measures 1.6 meters x 3 meters. I created the installation, but I didn’t do it alone. Those who donated the shoes to Pink Shoe Day painted them themselves. Pink Shoe Day is collecting 70,000 shoes to raise awareness. Each person who learns what the number 70,000 signifies, activates a network of more informed people who can do something proactive to reverse the rising trend of those diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Germany.
As „Alone We Fall“ shows, one person can not do it alone. We have to stand together. We have to arm ourselves. We have to open dialogue and break taboos. Early detection is key. Hausleben, the charity behind Pink Shoe Day, offers one time courses in MamaCare to teach how to perform self-exams correctly. They also offer programs for cancer patients and their families including thai chi, art therapy, coffee mornings.
We can never know what the future will bring. This is true of all things including our health. We can only be proactive and do our best to be our best. Sometimes there are things that are out of our control. This installation is one in a series using donated shoes for Pink Shoe Day. 70,000 women in Germany are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. This is the only cancer that is on the rise. Oncologist Luisa Mantovani Löffler wanted to do something to reverse this by raising awareness. Pink is the signature color for breast cancer in many countries. She wanted to do something to help people conceptualize exactly how many 70,000 is. She also knew that fear is the biggest problem in Germany so she thought of shoes. Everyone has an old pair of shoes lying around. Her idea was to have people paint them pink and send them in with a donation for Hausleben. Hausleben is a center that cares for the whole person and their families. They have many programs to help deal with things traditional medicine can’t. This is working! Women are getting together and painting shoes and talking about breast cancer. It is in their minds and they can start finding out what they can do now to decrease their chances of being part of the 70,000. When I work with the shoes I can feel that they each have stories on lots of levels. These are the shoes of women and those who love them. It is a great honor to do this work. This particular installation includes more than 800 shoes hanging from the ceiling with 7 mattresses beneath them. The mattresses are two-fold. They represent Hausleben and the fact that if you do fall, they are there to make the landing softer. They also invite you to lie under the installation and look at things in a new way; a way without fear. This installation is the central piece 70.000+ /ignore it and it won’t go away. I invited 7 women who had been touched by cancer to participate. I wanted to be sure they understood the importance of what we were doing.