A New Orleans artist finds a new direction.
Advocating for breast awareness and self-exams, Gass emphasizes that not all breast cancers present as lumps. “I’m a big example of early detection,” she says. “Even though the tumor was larger than a golf ball, it hadn’t become invasive yet.” She was able to avoid radiation and chemotherapy, undergoing a single mastectomy and simultaneous breast reconstruction. “Had I waited, or had I ignored it, my story could have been really different,” she says.
Dealing with her diagnosis, and the physical and psychological aftermath of her mastectomy, was difficult for Gass — but eventually, she says, she turned a corner. “You realize you have bigger fish to fry in life,” she says. “You have a certain amount of the rest of your life left. Life is short, and you have time left on earth thanks to the fact that you beat the cancer.”
Previously, Gass created small pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings of French Quarter scenes, selling them as part of Jackson Square’s outdoor artist colony. Now, dressed in heels and wearing lipstick to celebrate her femininity, she creates artwork of women’s bodies. “The work functions on two levels,” she says. “It’s fun if you don’t understand the deeper meaning.” Creating this work has helped her connect with other survivors — and with a deeper part of her artistic identity. “I finally achieved the meaning as an artist that I’d always hoped for,” she says.