CINCINNATI—Helen of Troy, Venus de Milo and Nike of Samothrace are all famous sculptures depicting women’s strength and beauty. While they have been damaged over time, now showing cracks and breaks, people still line up daily to see and celebrate them.
This is where the idea for the Grace Project originated, as photographer Charise Isis created and continues to create a series of empowering portraits to capture the courage, beauty and grace of women who bear the scars left from mastectomy.
Now, in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati (UC) Cancer Institute, Isis is bringing the project to Cincinnati to inspire audiences locally.
The Grace Project exhibit will be hosted at Miller Gallery in Hyde Park, 2715 Erie Ave., April 21-22 with free general admission. Private gallery tours with the artist are available for booking.
"The project is inspired by Hellenistic sculptures, goddess sculptures that have survived the trauma of history,” says Isis. "These relics have survived, and although broken, cracked, and scarred, are celebrated as beautiful, their brokenness revealing the delicate nature of life but also the endurance and beauty that still exists. This project is a way to empower the women who stand in front of my camera—to help them embrace their body image and their beauty. The project confronts the issue of body image in a contemporary culture that defines a very narrow version of accepted beauty.”
The exhibition features large format silk portraits, which bring the images to life, she adds.
"The silks truly create a presence that honors the very women who have braved their scars in front of my camera,” Isis says.
Elyse Lower, MD, professor of medicine at the UC College of Medicine and director of the UC Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Center, says this collaboration is truly exciting and something that means a lot to the community, patients, survivors and their families.
"This is an internationally recognized exhibit, and we are incredibly honored to help bring it to Cincinnati,” she says. "These stunning images are helping empower patients and survivors across the globe, and we are thrilled to be able to share them with our patients, former patients, their families and supporters and just the community as a whole.”
So far, Isis has photographed about 250 women for the project. Her goal is to photograph 800 women, the approximate number of women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer daily in the United States. The Cincinnati show will display about 30 silks, unveiling many images for the first time, including the photo of Champagne Joy, a well-known cancer activist who recently passed away March 27 in her fight against metastatic breast cancer.
Isis will also be doing Grace photo shoots around Cincinnati during the exhibition. These photo shoots are at no charge to the participant. A typical photo shoot is about half an hour.
For inquiries about the Grace Project Cincinnati exhibit, contact Charise Isis at 914-466-4347 or her assistant Joules Evans at 513-265-4063.