The Journey of Creating the Torso Lady September 14 2015

Serious illness such as breast cancer can affect everyone including friends and family at any time. Being able to support your loved ones can be shown in many different ways. This mosaic piece by Janice Parker represents her emotional journey with a loved one’s cancer journey.


When we first saw the piece we were captivated by the beauty of the piece, but it was the story behind the piece that is so inspirational. Janice originally found the torso in a thrift store with the idea of covering the torso with shards, found objects, and grout. Two years after the thrift store find, more research was done, and later the mortar was smeared on the piece ready to be covered. Her original idea of mosaicking the piece was going to be for enjoyment, exploration, and engagement.


However, within two weeks of the project it changed focus due to finding out that her thirty-two year old daughter discovered a lump on her breast. Her daughter’s life journey was interrupted, changed, and detoured which gave a new direction and focus to the mound of mortar at her art table. The torso now had a new purpose, it became her grieving and hiding place. She describes it as


“my unsettled wacky journey as a bystander mother trying to cage ribbons of emotions into shards, distress into clusters of color, and most importantly, hope into continuity.”


Emotions played a role in creating the piece, as the torso was covered in shards. She explains she could have been inspired that day by the sun shining in her nearby window, the breakthrough of her daughter’s demeanor on a given day, or perhaps even the music on the radio. As you can see, there are pronounced bold bright colors representing courageous moments, softer pastels representing interludes, and weaves of spirals and sharp defining lines were days of intervals and intermission. She describes that


“Every shard and object was a love song and a melody of hope as my fingers’ place a spot of glue there, or here, or higher, or to the left, depending on the inspiration of the moment. The one heart shaped tile was purposefully placed at the site of my daughter’s breast lump as if I could kiss it away.”


However, over time she explains, how the piece becomes “a bouquet of color and vitality for those on a cancer conquering journey”. Her piece began to form a new purpose again, instead of recognition of a singular patient it became a piece that supports courageous and strong women fighting for their lives. Having people sign their names or initials on various shards is a consecration of “I am here. Life with its struggles matters and dream lives on.” Her daughter is over the cancer treatment hurdles and faithfully engages in the joy of living with grace, like the bold and brilliant lovely torso lady.


The piece now is being displayed at the Marie Yeager Cancer Center in St. Joseph, Michigan, just inside the door of Van’s Wellness Center. Seen by cancer patients and supportive family members and friends. Each taking away inspiration of strength and connection to inner fortitude.