Breast cancer survivors use their bodies to create mesmerizing artwork

Oct 21, 2014 at 3:57 p.m. ET
Image: Lisa Scholder

Imagine spending 6-10 hours having your body physically painted and photographed. These female breast cancer survivors (and one man) used their bodies as canvases for beautiful artwork by visionary artist Lisa Scholder.

They're nude, they're vulnerable, and more than anything, they are absolutely beautiful. Scholder, the mastermind behind the images, created the Bodies of Courage art project to honor cancer survivors and promote hope to those currently suffering with the disease. Through her art, you see each survivor's individual story and courage shine through.

These paintings show exactly just how beautiful one’s body truly is.

Faces of Courage: Carrie

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Alma

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Bridget

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Carole

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Cass

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: CJ

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

C.J. was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 at the age of 53. Originally, she thought she could get through it on her own, but was proven wrong. "The painting session made me feel like, 'Look at me! This is who I am, and I am beautiful.' It left me with a very purposeful attitude. I got through this, I am literally a piece of art and I can help others get through this too," she shares.

Faces of Courage: Colleen

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Gina

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Dawn

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

"What is on the outside and what people see does not make you who you are and what people will remember. The Bodies of Courage project helped me to love myself even without breasts." — Dawn Roberts, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009

Faces of Courage: Jacque

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Carol 1

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Carol 2

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Carol 3

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Carol 3

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Carol bravely shares the effect that cancer had on her: "Cancer broke my heart, challenged my inner warrior and scarred my body," she says.

Faces of Courage: Janice

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Karla

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Lynne

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Darcelle

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Darcelle was diagnosed in 2010 with stage-three breast cancer. Looking at the positive, she recognizes that this experience — both getting cancer and getting involved with the Bodies of Courage project — has led her to a sisterhood. "I've been introduced to so many fantastic experiences and many wonderfully amazing women I call my sisters, in which I would have never met if not for cancer. I wouldn't give it back for anything in the world," she shares.

Faces of Courage: Mariette

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Michele

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Michelle

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Wanda

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Wanda, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, is a three-time cancer survivor, fighting kidney and thyroid cancer in addition to breast cancer. "Whatever happens in my life, God has given me the strength to be a warrior and I can be free to be me," she says.

Faces of Courage: Robin

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Judy

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Judith Schultz was diagnosed in 2013 with stage-two breast cancer, found via a routine mammogram. She had two different types of cancer in one breast, had a partial mastectomy, radiation for six weeks and is still on medication every day. "I felt pride and joy to be a part of Bodies of Courage — pride because I am a voice for all women and joy because I was made to feel whole, special and beautiful through a painting. I smile every day as the sun comes up, feeling happiness and loved to be here," she says.

Faces of Courage: Shari

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Shelby

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Lehua

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Lehua Pettay was diagnosed in July 2000 with ovarian, breast and cervical cancer. Honored to be a part of the art project, she was touched so spiritually that it led her to become an ordained minister.

Faces of Courage: Tish

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Tish and Alma

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Miriam

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Miriam, diagnosed in May 2010, felt transformed by the experience. "I became a part of the earth, a part of space, a colorful part of Life's canvas," she shares.

Faces of Courage: Herb Wagner

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

"As a male breast cancer advocate/survivor, 'we've added some blue to the sea of pink.' The photo shoot was an amazing experience that daily reinforced my commitment to be positive and be well every day since my diagnosis in 2005."  — Herb Wagner, 10-year male, breast cancer survivor

Faces of Courage: Wendy

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Faces of Courage: Wendy and Peggie

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Photo credit: Lisa Scholder

Peggie Sherry, C.E.O. of Faces of Courage cancer camps and two-time breast cancer survivor, says that the best part of these women is their determination and attitude. "They can tell their story with their body through this artwork and show how beautiful they truly are," Peggie says. “The photos truly capture a beautiful body despite the scars hiding under the paint. A healing day both mentally, physically and emotionally."

Lisa’s artwork not only captures how beautiful these survivors are on the outside, but also tells their story through her paintings. The photos mesmerize, evoke deep emotions, encourage, celebrate life and leave the viewer breathless.

Note: Bodies of Courage is home to Faces of Courage, a nonprofit organization that offers free camps and events to those with cancer and blood illnesses.

More on breast cancer

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Breast cancer vaccines may be a reality sooner than we think
5 Common myths about breast cancer

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