Interview Jackie Terrett / Images Bec Litvan
Bec Litvan is a Sydney-based artist and designer. Her sole inspiration is her mother, who was diagnosed with and survived a rare form of stage 3 breast cancer. Her work transfigures and celebrates the disabled body ravaged by breast cancer, and the consequent dehumanising medical procedures. Curator Jackie Terrett sat down to get to know a little more about her practice ahead of her stint in the 107 Window Box.
Your work is heavily influenced by your Mum, her battle with breast cancer and subsequent mastectomy. Can you tell us about your Mum’s journey with you as you create your work? How does she feel about your practice?
Ever since the HSC I’ve made work that’s centred around my mum, so she’s been part of my art making ever since I’ve taken it seriously.
She’s proud as punch – typical Jewish mother, she takes any opportunity to talk about it. Her favourite line is “I was told I can take 90% credit, so I will.”
Her experience and process with breast cancer made me grow as a person and an artist, and I honestly think my work has made her grow as well in terms of how she views herself as a woman and survivor. That fact that there’s a chance that my work could help her self confidence totally validates my art making.
Throughout your practice, there is a definite motif of flowers. For you, what significance do flowers have as symbols of growth (either negatively, or positively), as well as femininity?
The motif of flowers actually stemmed from the idea of creating the mastectomy bras which were visually inspired by graphically animated cancer cells.
At first I was choosing flowers that weren’t visually as aesthetic, since I wanted a connection to cancer cells. But that idea itself grew into something more since I was embracing the aesthetic in order to enhance mum’s confidence. So, I decided to use other flowers which my Mum found beautiful and feminine herself.
I think the flowers themselves were a way to show that my mum’s beauty has grown, regardless of her battle with breast cancer and her double mastectomy. Any flower I choose for the bra I want my mum’s approval because, ultimately, she’ll wear the bra so I do want her to feel as beautiful as possible wearing them.
The floral mastectomy bras have become less about the aesthetic connection with cancer cells (although that is the underlying concept) and more about empowering women – in this case my mum – and reinforcing her confidence as a woman and sense of self and femininity.
I know you have been endeavouring to branch out into having not only an aesthetic, but also a social, practice. Can you tell us a little about your involvement with any organisations that have a vested interest in breast cancer awareness? What social goals do you dream that you can achieve through your practice?
A collection of photographs and bras are currently in the waiting room of the Sydney Breast Clinic. I was really pleased that I was able to provide my work to such an appropriate environment which has such a strong interest in breast cancer awareness.
The breast clinic has so many women coming throughout the day and I’m glad that my work can serve as a distraction from their reality at present. My work is able to lift their spirits, if only for a few moments so I’m extremely grateful for that.
I’m also currently involved with the National Council of Jewish Women Australia.
I recently provided my work for a cancer charity event which was really fantastic.
They’re a really great organisation who help and council cancer patients, survivors, and carers. They hold several events throughout the year that boost cancer awareness within the community.
One social goal in particular I have in mind is to create a calendar with breast cancer survivors to empower them and reinforce their confidence and femininity.
That’s a major goal, as I’d really love to have more survivors involved and boost breast cancer awareness through that as well. //
You can see Bec’s work in the 107 Window Box from January 24 – February 17. Meet her and get to know more about her practice at the opening night on January 24.