Art has provided a way for women who have undergone mastectomies to find self-acceptance after surviving breast cancer.

According to, a 2014 study showed that about 44 percent of women who have had mastectomies choose not to have breast reconstruction surgery. The decision not to have reconstruction or wear a breast form underneath clothing has been referred to by women and doctors as “going flat” or “living flat.”

Some women artists and models who have chosen to “go flat” have also chosen to participate in art exhibitions meant to document their experiences and show how they’ve accepted their scars. For example, Los Angeles-based artist Samantha Paige worked with photographer Lisa Field to create the acclaimed “Last Cut” series depicting Paige before and after a double mastectomy.

Tattoos that hide mastectomy scares have also been presented as art. The International Museum of Surgical Science has an exhibition currently on display, “David Allen: Mastectomy Tattoos and Post-Surgery Healing,” showcasing photographs of work by a Chicago tattoo artist known for having high-profile clients like Lady Gaga. Allen has specialized in mastectomy tattoos, and has given interviews stating that listening with empathy is an important aid to the healing process.

“Through Different Eyes: The Faces of Poverty in Virginia,” a traveling exhibition organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, included powerful images of a woman identified only as Christa, her double mastectomy scars and burns from radiation treatment visible as she played with her two small daughters.

Amy Black, a tattoo artist in Richmond, founded the Pink Ink Fund, a nonprofit devoted to outreach and financial assistance for post mastectomy tattoos. The organization has raised funds by selling T-shirts sporting the slogan “Art Heals.”

To learn more, visit or Pink Ink Fund on Facebook.

Mike Allen writes the Arts & Extras column for The Roanoke Times. The beat he covers includes visual art, classical music, opera, theater, dance, literature, museums and other arts and cultural nonprofits, and things even more eclectic.