Breast cancer patients become living art

- Visionary artist Lisa Scholder's canvases are the embodiment of struggle, survival and remembrance. She's painting the bodies of women who have fought breast cancer. 

Her models are survivors who bring their own story of courage and strength to Scholder as inspiration for each piece. Their individual journeys become the living art featured in Scholder's new calendar - 12 months of photos dedicated to those who have lived with and died from breast cancer. 

It's called the Bodies of Courage Collection and is part of a larger project called Faces of Courage, which offers free camps and events for women, men and children with cancer and blood illnesses. 

For Scholder, the motivation behind this project is pain relief, peace and satisfaction for her subjects. With each brush of her fingers, Scholder gets one step closer to her goal. The pain is felt literally and physically by her canvas.

"I'm having a pain. This is the side I had my surgery on," breast cancer survivor Leslie Henry said while becoming a live work of art. "I get to cover my scars, and I think that's the most important thing to me today." 

Scholder explained, "they've been poked and prodded. This is a chance to be free of that. You're not prodded and poked here. You're just caressed and made colorful." 

She and Faces of Courage founder Peggie Sherry started the Bodies of Courage project six years ago. Their "little art project" grew wings and took flight. To date, they've painted over 40 breast cancer survivors, each with her own story, depicted in unique pictures. Their stories are ones of shock, disbelief, fear, disfiguring surgeries, harsh medical treatments and long recovery times. 

"I saw the pictures and said, 'Wow, I want to do this,'" Henry recalled.  

Scholder spends six to 10 hours painting and photographing the women. It's a day that transforms more than the cancer patient's scars. It makes over their minds, each stroke strengthening the survivor's self image.  

"If you've gone through something traumatic, and you want to celebrate life and yourself, I think it's a good thing to do," she noted 

The pictures have been put into a calendar - each image anonymous.

Scholder said, "I like to do close-ups, where most people can't tell what they are looking at." 

So only the artist and her model know the real story and the real reason behind each photo, but together the images form a powerful message.

"I think being a beautiful person is having empathy for others and understanding what they went through, and helping them embrace life," Scholder said. 

Sadly, many of the participants in the Bodies of Courage project lost their battle with cancer, but the artwork and message it carries will live on for generations.   

For more information on The Bodies of Courage Project, visit https://facesofcourage.wordpress.com/bodies-of-courage/.

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