PEORIA — A 44-inch DDD leopard print bra was in the process of becoming art at Judith Koren Shanahan’s studio Thursday afternoon.
A tiny stuffed animal was nestled between the cups and fern leaves were tentatively placed here and there.
“I found this one at St. Anthony’s rummage sale,” said Shanahan. “I’m going to add lots of jungle-looking animals and foliage to it.”
Once finished, the bra will hang on a wall next to other whimsically-decorated bras as part of “Peoria Area Women’s Cup.” The opening reception will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1 at Shanahan’s studio, 5835 N. Galena Road, in the old Gardner School which is accessed off Gardner Lane.
Shanahan came up with the theme while brainstorming ideas for her studio’s participation in the annual Citywide Celebration of Women in the Arts.
“It’s been done in other cities in the U.S., usually for breast cancer awareness,” said Shanahan. “It’s never been done in Peoria, so I decided to do it for November with proceeds to benefit the Center for Prevention of Abuse. People can buy a bra and take it home that night, or donate money under the name of the bra.”
Shanahan has no idea how many art bras will be submitted for the display. She distributed about 100 flyers around Peoria explaining when and where artwork should be dropped off. Any woman can participate, and though the official deadline has passed, Shanahan will take late entries if someone feels compelled to make bra art after reading this article. The only rule is that entries must be G-rated. Questions should be directed to Shanahan at email@example.com.
Already there are 12 finished art bras on display, including eight that Shanahan made. With a passion for mixed media, Shanahan has been collecting trinkets for years. She used some of them on a bra covered with bits of rhinestone jewelry. A tiny teacup was the inspiration for another bra covered with teabags. Galesburg artist Debra Babb spent many hours stitching beads onto a purple bra to form flowers and the words “Be the Change, Lift Us Up.” Flowers cover a bra named “Victoria’s Secret Garden,” and snowflakes cover an all-white design named “Snow Maidenform.” Woodland creatures are nestled in the lush foliage covering a bra by Chillicothe resident Linda Herron, who also covered a red, white and blue bra with vintage political buttons.
“I’ll have to ask $150 for that one. Linda has been collecting political buttons for years,” said Shanahan.
Most of the art bras are simply pretty but one gets political. A purple and pink maribou-trimmed bra named “Stormy” features a Barbie doll with a diminutive President Trump doll glued to her foot.
The display, an unabashed celebration of women, is one of many opening in Peoria this month. The bra is a perfect symbol for that effort, said Shanahan.
“Women hold up half the world — what other symbol is there that so strongly says 'woman' than a bra?”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.