An avid artist from the age of three, Dana Phipps works with acrylics to produce beautiful and moving paintings. Though she discovered her passion in her art classes in high school, one of the most integral points in her development as an artist hit when Phipps lost her mother to breast cancer. Through her period of intense grieving, she produced a piece inspired by her mother, which paved her path towards taking part in the Brushes With Cancer program and has since gained incredible social media attention. The empowering and hope giving artwork features a topless woman who is covering her breasts with a pair of pink boxing gloves.
Due to the popularity of the piece, Phipps created her own event grounded in healing art therapy. Named Knockout, the event invites survivors of breast cancer to pose topless with a pair of boxing gloves covering their breasts, while photographers took their pictures. Participants were able to enjoy food and live entertainment as they supported and honored past, current, and future fighters. The powerful pictures are then combined into a collage to spread awareness and educate people about breast cancer. All proceeds are donated to local hospitals.
The pictures taken of the survivors with their boxing gloves during the photoshoot were
compiled into a larger collage featuring a larger image of a woman with pink boxing
With her heavy involvement in art therapy, Phipps was immediately drawn to Brushes With Cancer after seeing a Facebook friend announce her participation in the event. In the announcement, her friend shared a video capturing her testimony and why she had chosen to be an inspiration for the program, which not only deeply moved Phipps, but also connected her with Twist Out Cancer. With the work she had already been doing with Knockout, she felt a personal calling towards Brushes With Cancer.
“That was my personal art healing therapy, and it got a lot of attention,” Phipps said. “I am such an artsy person, that when I first found Brushes With Cancer, my first thought was, ‘Where do I sign up?’ I instantly knew I needed to be involved. As a visual artist who lost her mom to breast cancer, I knew the significance of an event like this from both sides. I’ve always tried keeping my mom’s memory alive, and art has helped me. Twist Out Cancer was amazing to me in both aspects, and I think it can also be healing for ppl on the opposite side who are artists.”
During the Brushes With Cancer event, Phipps was paired with Danielle Thomas, a survivor of cervical cancer. In her personal testimony, her twin sister Michelle was always present, providing a constant source of support, love, and encouragement. The two were interdependent, working the same job and commuting to and from work together. After forming a relationship with the two women, Phipps was able to see how strong the twins’ bond is, and thus decided to use that bond as the inspiration for her artwork.
“Danielle and Michelle’s connection was so powerful and heartfelt,” Phipps said. “These two have shared the womb, shared one roof, and shared the happiest and darkest times in each other’s lives. Dani’s physical battle with cervical cancer was Michelle’s mental fight too. ‘You fight, I fight…you hurt, I hurt…you cry, I cry’ is the spiritual and emotional bond these twins share. Danielle had a rough road to recovery, but with prayer, strength, courage, and her sister support system…cancer had no chance! Born together, friends forever. This is true twinship.”
Titled “Twinship,” the piece features a silhouette of two women standing back to back. The silhouettes merged together to form the image of one larger woman and the impression of a cervix.
“I was trying to express how this one woman, who had cervical cancer, couldnt have
fought it without her sister’s support,” Phipps said. It showed [Danielle’s] internal fight
couldn’t have been won without her twin.”
Phipps is planning on returning to the Brushes With Cancer program, and is brimming with enthusiasm for this year’s program.
“I would tell any artist that it’s definitely an amazing experience to hear someones truth and hear them put it all out on the table,” Phipps said. “It’s very therapeutic for both parties, especially if you’ve been affected by cancer. To hear someone’s story really puts it on a whole new level for you. Hearing Danielle’s story and the authenticity really opened my heart and my mind. I would encourage an artist to at least try it once and meet someone and hear their story. Let it be a healing process. Create art based on the truth, and just watch for a reaction! There’s really no way to describe how it feels, I guarantee you!”
To learn more about Brushes with Cancer, purchase tickets and learn about sponsorship opportunities check out our website.
Written by Joy Hsu, Northwestern University.