The Breast Portrait Project - Clarity Haynes

Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 14, 2002

Clarity Haynes, senior art student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, has used her talents to help women in a unique way, through The Breast Portrait Project. It all started in 1998, when Clarity created a self-portrait of her torso to overcome her own uncertainty. The experience unveiled a sense of self confidence and helped her see a beauty she never knew she possessed. She thought, perhaps other women would find the experience equally inspiring, and The Breast Portrait Project was born.

Breast Portrait Triptych
Oil on Canvas
22" X 88"

Clarity met her first subject in 1998 at Womongathering, a women's festival, where women felt comfortable posing out in the open. In the years to follow, the project flourished at women's festivals, encountering an incredibly diverse group of women. After their portrait was complete, the artist asked each woman to write their thoughts and feelings of the experience in a book, which became known as "the breast book."

Charcoal Drawing
35" x 48"

In the second year of the project, Clarity met and painted a breast cancer survivor, whose treatment had included mastectomy. This woman found the experience helped her to accept her body as it was, and she encouraged other breast cancer survivors to sit for portraits. These women's interpretations of the experience are a particularly moving and inspiring part of the breast book.

Studies for a Triptych
I, II, and III
Oil on Board
7" x 9"

Clarity has painted or drawn over 100 women, and describes her subjects as courageous, wise, honest, and creative. She came across a quote in The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde that communicates the thoughts of some of the breast book participants:

"Prosthesis offers the empty comfort of 'nobody will know the difference'. But it is that very difference that I wish to affirm, because I have lived it, have survived it, and wish to share that strength with other women. If we are to translate the silence surrounding breast cancer into language and action against this scourge, then the first step is that women with mastectomies must become visible to each other."

Clarity's work will be on display at the Annual Student Exhibition at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia through May 31st. If you would like more information on the exhibit, call PAFA at 215-972-7639, or visit their website at