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She said: “ Paint me, paint my story”

The heroines of the  project “It’s me – Pyunik”  authored by an artist Mariam Mughdusyan  are women who have survived cancer. By creating the portraits of these women, she tries to show once again that cancer is not yet a verdict, and to break the stereotypes about beauty. The project is entirely based on facts and real stories. Panorama.am talked to the artist.


– I’ve been working on the project for a little over a year. I talked about it because the motivation was personal. I have had thyroid cancer in 2018. The day before the surgery, I began to think about the scars left after cancer. In my case, there would be a little scar on the neck. At that time, I began to think about women undergoing breast surgery. The breast is a symbol of femininity in painting, and it is quite difficult to imagine a woman without a breast in painting. Media has its role here. As a part of this project, I realized that these women continue to be beautiful, continue to be women.


“Who are the heroines of the canvases?” Are they your posers, if so, do they easily agree to become posers?


– “During the project I find, I meet women who have or have had breast cancer. There are women whose breast is not removed; there are women who have one or two breast removed. First, we start a conversation with two women. You know, our Armenian women are very shy. I say with some caution that I want to draw nude. But for the program, I chose the painting, not the photo itself, because it allows us not to identify, if the image is sharply against to be identified, and does not want  the portrait to look very much like her, I try to do it that way. If they strongly oppose sitting naked and talking, we do not sit naked, but generally they agree, because we are both women. When a person feels good in that environment, she begins to trust, and thus showing wounds, which are sometimes very fresh. My heroines  are mostly women over the age of 40-50, though there are younger ones too.


The project is entirely based on facts and real stories. How do you find those stories?


– At the beginning of the project I went to hospitals where women with breast cancer were treated or operated on. I hoped that I would find women who would agree to be painted. Initially, I was going to sit in the lobby of the hospital and get to know what I did. Then I realized that at least seven women could be found around me.


Isn’t it difficult to address such a topic?


– In fact it is very difficult, I cannot explain. At first, what I was doing reminded me a bit of masochism, because I myself have a lot of phobias in general. This is also, in fact, a program to help me overcome my fears. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because I can have a lot of mirror pain myself. That’s why the project takes longer than planned. When I have painted ten people, it will probably be one and a half years instead of the one planned.


What is the reaction of the posers when they see themselves on the canvas?


– The reactions are different, they mostly like it. Two of the heroines already said that after the session, they felt beautiful and strong again, reconciling with their bodies. It was an exciting moment, and also encouraging. Interestingly, the painting does little to address this. Now I understand why, because it’s quite heavy.

“How many canvases do you have in the project?

– I planned to have 10 canvases  within the project “It is me, Pyunik”. I had long wondered what to name. I just couldn’t find a better name, even though it’s a little confusing. Yet, yes, these women are phoenixes, given that they are truly beings who have come back from the clutches of death, born of ashes, born of fire, born of spirit. As I have learned, understood the essence of my heroines, they are just that.

What is the main message of this project?

– It has a few messages. First and foremost, the campaign against breast cancer and raising awareness about breast cancer, public awareness. One of the primary goals is to show and urge women to undergo screening, not to miss out, not to wait for the first symptoms, and remember that detecting early saves lives.


Figures prove:


Breast cancer takes the first place in the overall structure of malignant tumors of women. The specific weight of breast cancer ranges from 12 to 14.4 percent, and the rate of morbidity per 100,000 women is 35.0 to 44.6. Every year 750-850 primary breast cancer patients are reported in the country, and as in many countries around the world, Armenia also has an increase in morbidity rates. The highest rates of breast cancer in our country (61%) are in the age group of 41-60 years,  in the group of 60 years and higher – about 20%. Along with high morbidity and prevalence, breast cancer is also characterized by a long pre-clinical stage of the disease and high efficacy of treatment in the early stages.


The best way to prevent breast cancer is to have a healthy lifestyle and regular breast exams. Women of middle and upper age are advised to undergo regular breast cancer screening. Screening mammography is used to detect possible cancer as early as possible until the disease has developed and has not caused any complaints or signs. Mammography raises the likelihood of early detection of breast cancer, and depending on it – the likelihood of successful treatment.






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