A recent press release reads: “Cedarburg artist Claudette Lee has been selected by the Kohl’s 2011 ‘Every Ribbon Has a Story’ project to paint a 6’ fiberglass breast cancer ribbon sculpture. Ribbons, painted by 16 Milwaukee area artists, will be on display at local Kohl’s stores prior to the ‘Susan G Komen Race for the Cure’ which takes place on September 25th. Ribbon sculptures are to be auctioned off via a national on-line auction with proceeds going to the ‘Susan G Komen for the Cure’ foundation. “In addition, banners of individual sculptures will hang on Lincoln Memorial Drive prior to the race day.
"Claudette’s sculpture theme, ‘What Is Your Story?’ features the names of persons who have, or know someone who has had some experience with, breast cancer. Sculptures, painted in a Third Ward warehouse, will be moved to their display locations in early September.”
For me, this is remarkable on a number of levels. First and foremost, as somebody who knows Claudette, I am thrilled for her. Claudette’s oil paintings frequently hang on the walls of the Cedarburg Cultural Center, and we are fortunate to have her as an instructor for a smattering of adult art education classes.
But what's intriguing for me is how Claudette chose to express her experience and her approach to cancer. You have to know Claudette for this to fully resonate, but Claudette Lee is a force of nature, and I mean that in the best possible way. Her hair is beautiful yet wild and untamed. Her clothing is colorful and comfortable. Her jewelry is often of her own creation, and it is bold. She describes her painting style as “free and undetermined.”
And yet she created a ribbon for breast cancer. The free and undetermined painting style of Claudette Lee expresses this life-changing and, too often, life ending disease: You can’t get much more “determining” than cancer. Where’s the freedom in that?
And what’s more, she starts from the assumption that each of us has some involvement with breast cancer. We either are someone, or know someone, or love someone who has dealt with breast cancer. The names of people, clearly multi-cultural names, who have been tied together by cancer in some way, become the design for the ribbon. Names and broad brushstrokes of color: We are all different and colorful in our own way. Together we tell a complete story.
Claudette even included a mail slot into the design of her “What Is Your Story?” ribbon for viewers to contribute their own personal story and mirrors to “reflect the question back to the viewer.”
So I was having some trouble getting comfortable with all of this. How does somebody with Claudette’s open, expansive, “free and undetermined” artistic and personal style express a disease that so clearly determines the path of so many lives? And then it came to me.
This is a ribbon. Not a knot. A loose ribbon. And although the names of all those effected by cancer are part of its fabric, the ribbon itself is fluid and can take many forms. The ribbon is free and undetermined. Like Claudette.
Everybody has crises. It’s how we deal with them that makes the difference. That’s my story. What’s yours?
Claudette Lee's ribbon may be seen at Kohl’s on South 108th Street in West Allis.
Wed, August 31, 2011
by Lauren Rose Hofland, Cedarburg Cultural Center filed under