“Lady Parts Follies” Texas Artist Thedra Cullar-Ledford, Breast Cancer Survivor

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Director Bill Arning, artist Thedra Cullar-Ledford and Dr. Franklin Rose at "Lady Part Follies" at #houstoncontemporaryartmuseum #CAMH a #breastmastectomy #survivor & Holly Rose Ribbon patient
Director Bill Arning, artist Thedra Cullar-Ledford and Dr. Franklin Rose at “Lady Part Follies” at the #houstoncontemporaryartmuseum #CAMH a #breastmastectomy #survivor & Holly Rose Ribbon patient

We made our first facebook live video! On the front page of the New York Times recently there was an article discussing a new trend for women opting out of breast augmentation surgery post mastectomy for breast cancer.  Our patient Thedra came to the Holly Rose Ribbon Foundation for help from Houston Plastic Surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose to smooth out and even the appearance of her skin and irregular scars post mastectomy.  As Thedra is an artist without health insurance – we were pleased to help her with plastic surgery reconstruction free of charge via The Holly Rose Ribbon Foundation and very much enjoyed her art show currently on view at the Houston Contemporary Art Museum.

Check out Texas Artist Thedra Cullar-Ledford, part of the “flat & fabulous” movement – a breast cancer survivor & patient of Dr. Franklin Rose & The Holly Rose Ribbon Foundation. Thedra currently has her art on view at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston: a fascinating and thought-provoking look at the issues women face post mastectomy, body issues, challenging our cultural norms of the day with her installation entitled “Lady Parts Follies” currently on view at the CAM thanks for checking it out!

From the Houston Chronicle:

“Thedra Cullar-Ledford’s confrontational mixed-media art draws you into a world of exposed nipples, mastectomy scars and perversely funny dolls…

most of the work in Thedra Cullar-Ledford’s first solo museum show is purposefully brazen.

Two sculptural installations in the center of the room are the exception: “Five Thousand Trashy Romance Novels,” from 1997, is a large cube of paperback books topped with a slab of graphite. It honors the artist’s mother, a “brainiac” writer who indulges in romance novels.

“Homage to the American Trucker,” from Cullar-Ledford’s grad-school years in London, contains a pair of boxes lined with maps and decorated with cutouts based on the familiar “trucker girl” mudflap design.

Each holds an object of clothing – worn work boots and a pair of blue jeans – like a religious relic.

The eyes go first, however, to Cullar-Ledford’s large paintings and mixed-media works, which for the past three years have been born from her experience with breast cancer and a double mastectomy.

The artist knows her recent work, full of scar and nipple images, won’t appeal to everyone. “I don’t want to make art for people who are educated about art,” she said.

Arning called it “the most life-affirming, humorous, politically angry work about cancer” he’s ever seen.

Diving into the local art scene when he arrived in Houston about a decade ago, Arning came to know Cullar-Ledford as a community organizer. She and her husband, Stephen Ledford, built the Independence Heights Studios compound on the north side. They became about as close as it gets to being family without being family: She discovered she had cancer when she was preparing for elective surgery to donate a kidney to Arning’s life partner.

Born in Abilene, Cullar-Ledford grew up in Mexico and on the Texas border with artistic parents. By 16, she was living alone, in Dallas, so she could attend an arts high school. She met Ledford on her first day at California College of the Arts, and they married during their junior year.

When a professor sniped that she’d drop art because she’d be too busy making babies, she responded, defiantly, with a strip-tease performance as a domestic character who was half ladybug.

During their years in London, New York and elsewhere, she and Ledford had two sons, who are now 22 and 15. The family settled in Houston about a decade ago because she wanted chickens, tomatoes and space.

“I’m very happy,” Cullar-Ledford said.

But she’s kept an edge in her art. In 2010, she played with grotesque body imagery in the 50 paintings of her “Dolls” series, a few of which are in the museum show.

“It was a great way to talk about issues I found important,” she said.

Arning interprets that body of work “almost like a rehearsal” for the work Cullar-Ledford made after her surgery, when she made herself get off the couch every day to paint, full of anger.

“I made myself do it because there are ladies that – I always think of them as the choir directors in middle America – who can’t … get up and be mad,” she said. “As soon as I grasped that – that I had a vision and a voice and a calling – it made it easier. It’s like I’m doing this for a bigger cause.”

Her newest works are massive mixed-media collages that combine photographs, paint splatters, painted sections and funny add-ons, such as a pair of suggestively shaped cake-pan lids that hang from long chains.

“I’ve always just said I’m a conceptual artist who uses paint. But now I’ve quit fighting that,” Cullar-Ledford said. “This is all therapy.”  By Molly Glentzer

‘Going Flat’ After Breast Cancer



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