Rintakuvia – Busts

Sculptures and photographs by Tuula Bergqvist

Welcome to the opening of the exhibition on 2.9. at 17-19!

My first bra was decorated with lace. It was light purple coloured, padded and pretty.  We bought it with my mom on our lunch break in a lingerie boutique. I was 12.

My breasts were small so when the bras were burning in the 70´s, it was easy to give them up.  The next time I put the bra on was when I got pregnant and started breast-feeding.  I was given the chance to see how much breast size has to do with the need for a bra.

I dare say that, in one way or another, bras carry a special meaning for all women.  A bra is a piece of clothing that is attached with strong emotions. There are strict norms that regulate the use of bra: on one hand they are hidden and covered and on the other, shown and exposed, depending on your needs and aims.

Spring-winter 2011 I had a mastectomy. Cancer sounds scary, sick and pain-like. Breast cancer sounds like a loss of femininity, mutilation and ugly bra. As a matter of fact, my first concern after my diagnosis was that I had just bought two beautiful bras that had now become useless.

Breasts are important. In our culture, big breasts are preferred. The public health system pays for new breasts for those who have lost them, if that is what they want. But what if they don’t? What if you want to live with just one breast – or without any breasts at all?

How does it feel to lose a breast? What kinds of emotions are awoken by the change in your own body? What is it with scars that so frightens and scares us?

I believe that making cancer and its consequences visible, decreases anxiety and uncertainty. In 2011, 4872 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. In the future, with the growing life-expectation, the number will rise. Apart from this, each cancer case touches a big group of family members, colleagues and neighbours around the patient.

In my art pieces I exploit used bras.  When I work on the bras with different techniques and materials to make the art, I explore my own cancer-related, material-physical process. How has the process influenced on my life? Does it have a wider cultural or political significance?

-Tuula Bergqvist-


Tuula Bergqvist (b. 1955) has made her professional career as a teacher of design and fashion. Her artistry is centered around costume design and dressmaking with special focus on dance theatre. She has co-operated with the Dance Theatre ERI in Turku, Finland for the last twenty years comprising nearly 50 performances. Costume design has provided opportunities to explore ways of conflating beauty, imagination and function. She exploits both virgin and recycled textile materials in her works by manipulating them with diverse techniques such as sewing, dyeing, painting, felting, embroidery, crocheting and antiquating.

Tuula Bergqvist studies Visual Culture at the Department of Art at the Pori Unit of Aalto University. She is in the process of completing her MA thesis on the influence of breast cancer on self-image. The exhibition is a part of her study.