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Mary Coss Bronze Busts: Our Bodies, Our Breasts

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

Sometimes you meet someone, and you can’t imagine how your lives will intersect and reconnect over time. Mary Coss is one such person.

Back in 1998, I was assigned as Mary’s roommate on my son’s middle school band trip. We became friends and chaperone buddies. I knew she was an artist, teacher, and travelled the world creating her different projects. But I was too wrapped up in my life to get to know much more. (Tracking the whereabouts and activities of three kids in three different school was my full-time job.)

Fast forward 17 years and my friend’s passion for telling the stories of women through historical artifacts lines up with my mission at The Breast Life. Her series of bronze busts, The Amour of Armour, speaks to the complicated relationship women have with intimate apparel. Our “foundations” define our outward appearance and can be liberating, constricting, or inspirational. This series also raises questions about how much control and agency women have over their bodies and breasts.

From Mary’s Artist Statement:

Looking back at women throughout history, I see how far we have come in some regards, yet how little has changed in others. This work is my contribution to the conversation. Public Debt to the Suffragette reflects on the times of 1912-15 through the eyes of 2012-15. The very year that the US congress started to limit women’s rights over their bodies is exactly 100 years after Margaret Sanger initiated what would become Planned Parenthood. I was inspired to honor the female body and use it as a statement about seduction, power, and control; and to question social mores of gender.

Mary Coss bronze busts

Bebés La Leche
 
Mary Coss Bronze Busts
 
For Margaret Sanger’s Faith
 

The long history of bronze casting includes the making of protective war implements, in particular, body armor. Using bronze to present intimate imagery creates a different context for the material, an exploration of the space between the familiar and the uncomfortable. My use of corsets questions historical reference and gender roles. It’s written that women donned the first corsets to take a stand, saying no to motherhood and yes to other possibilities. There are also stories of women who broke or removed ribs to create a body to fit the current ideal.

My use of corsets questions historical reference and gender roles. It’s written that women donned the first corsets to take a stand, saying no to motherhood and yes to other possibilities. There are also stories of women who broke or removed ribs to create a body to fit the current ideal. History is storytelling and truth is illusive.

Mary Coss Bronze Busts

 
Inertia 

Mary Coss Bronze Busts

Artist Mary Coss with Gilded cAge
 

“Gilded cAGE” reflects on the Gilded Age. It was a time where society lay corrupt under a gilded surface layer. Just as Mark Twain coined this term for the late 19th century, current business and politics have evolved to a similar social condition.

 
 
 
 
Mary Coss Bronze Busts
 
The Unfamiliar Familiar
 
 
 
Mary Coss Bronze Busts
 
This Bird Has Flown

To learn more about Mary Coss, please visit her website.

If you live in Seattle and would like to see her work in person, don’t miss her current installation at Method Gallery through January 2, 2016.

What do you think of Mary Coss bronze busts? 

Image credits: © Copyright Mary Coss. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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