Prior to this ground breaking image the only photographs of mastectomies were tucked away in medical textbooks with the womens head discreetly cut off for the sake of propriety. "The Warrior" changed all that. Deena Metzger, arms wide and face beaming, realized the image of a spirit unconquered. A sensual photo with a feminine beauty very much intact. "The Warrior" is resolute and celebratory. A poster of the image became something of a cult object during the 1980's, ubiquitous in feminist bookstores and tattoo parlours alike, and in this way the censored scar was finally revealed.
When the novelist and poet Deena Metzger was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 she underwent a mastectomy within two weeks and her life was changed forever. After her recovery she became aware that the sight of a one breasted woman aroused as much curiosity even as it disturbed women. Metzger having written a book Tree on her experience with cancer wanted to create an image that would accompany the book. After a lengthy search she found the photographer Hella Hammid, who's photo is below this text. Their collaboration produced "The Warrior."
In a twisted irony , Hella Hammid died of cancer in 1992. The two women had become deep friends and Metzger was able to accompany Hammid on her journey with the disease before her death. According to Deena, when she developed cancer it was expected that one in five women would develop breast cancer during their lifetimes, and these statistics have not changed since. In Tree, she speaks of the ways in which we use use nuclear war (radiation), biological and chemical warfare (chemo and other therapies) and the sword (surgery) in order to treat disease. She believes that the same genius that that contributed to to the development of moderm medicine can discover treatments that do not agres against the body or the land, but which are healing for the individual and the community.
Deena's unbridled bravery would influence a coterie of women artists and photographers who had undergone mastectomies. A series of passionate self portraits emerged. A self portrait by the artist Matushka appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine in 1993 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Today Deena Metzger is a well known writer, teacher, story teller and healer. She is the author of many books, fiction and non fiction, and almost all of her work is concerned with creativity, community, healing and peacemaking. Her website is here.
This text above was written by Rick Cusick in Feb 2004.
What's great about Deena can be tapped into on her website, there are some great features on line about all sorts of subjects that are very interesting and thought provoking. They are more than worthy of a read. Here's few lines she wrote.
There are those who are trying to set fire to the world
We are in danger
There is time only to work slowly
There is no time not to love.