Artist Uses Cancer Slides to Create Beautiful Dresses

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Firkins was inspired by images like this one of cancerous cells. She brought the colors and shapes to life in her 3-D dress collection.

Assistant Professor Jacqueline Firkins of the University of British Columbia Department of Theatre and Film was looking for opportunities outside of her field to correlate science and research into art. She came upon images of cancer cell slides and turned the ugly truth of cancer into beautiful gowns.

The art
According to The American Society for Cell  Biology, professor Christian Naus of UBC's Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences was shocked to see Firkins' completed creations. When the artist saw images of cancerous cells on Naus' website and asked if she could use them to create clothing, he thought she would put the images on T-shirts similar to ones he had seen at research conferences. Instead, the artist used vintage saris, yarn and cloth to create voluminous, colorful dresses that tell stories of cancerous cellular activity.

The slides Firkins worked off of included vivid colors like deep purple, navy blue, scarlet and lime green. She used those colors found in the slide images to create a 3-D representation of the cellular activity. Some of the slide images included half normal cells that were about to be invaded by breast cancer cells, neurons moving in a Petri dish, the mechanisms that control migration and cancer invasion and even brain cells that were stained to show their skeletal shapes or how proteins react to one another.

The dress collection, called "Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty," was funded through the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Research Mentoring Program. The gowns have been featured on CNN, NBC, The Rush, the Daily Mail and other major television news stations.  

Firkins and Naus hope the collection inspires conversation among researchers, medical professionals and cancer patients about breast cancer and the many stages of the disease. After appearing across media outlets worldwide, the collection was sold at auction to raise money for UCB partner Cancer Prevention Center. To see the full line visit the Fashioning Cancer website.

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