Art show asks you to Think Before You Pink

It’s October and that time of year when an onslaught of pink ribbons pop up here, there, and everywhere, from candy bars to shiny new cars. Now a San Francisco gallery, ArtHaus, has teamed up with Breast Cancer Action (BCA), a national watchdog organization, to present a show that invites viewers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.  

Think Before You Pink (also the name of a BCA campaign) features 14 artists, including at least one breast cancer survivor, Torrie Groening. “I was fed up and saddened by the fact that I couldn’t even buy my family groceries without being bombarded with reminders of cancer in the shape of pink ribbons,” Groening says. Her photograph, This Elixir, It Won’t Fix Her (right), features a volcano of consumer good erupting out of a tin can—teddy bears, lemon squeezers, and sunglasses. “When researching for this piece I only had to Google ‘pink ribbon store’ to discover this was a huge industry. Hundreds of online stores sell thousands of manufactured and pink ribbon objects—enough to fill many landfills.” Groening says she is sick of pink and she’s participating in the show, in part, because BCA holds companies accountable, including ones that manufacture carcinogenic products and then urge the public to buy its products to support cancer research.

Among other things, BCA also encourages consumers to read the fine print—how much of the money really goes toward breast cancer? According to BCA, for example, Lean Cuisine once displayed pink ribbons on its boxes, but the purchase of the frozen delights did not result in any money going toward breast cancer research. Instead, the consumer was directed to a website to buy a pink Lean Cuisine lunch tote.

Groening says everyone copes differently, but she prefers not to concentrate on cancer and keep a sense of humor and focus on her family and artwork. Think Before You Pink runs at ArtHaus through Oct. 31.

—Bonnie Gangelhoff

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