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Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt rests in beauty.EXPAND
Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt rests in beauty.
Courtesy of Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt

Altered States of Beauty Universalizes the Breast-Cancer Experience

Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt wanted to eat the piece of chocolate cake, though she knew it was best to avoid sugar when battling cancer. But she ate it anyway, because it was her birthday, and why the hell not? Vukadin-Hoitt —a photographer, cultural animal, fortune teller, traveler, foodie and collector of all the beautiful things in life — is a free spirit, and risk is part of her everyday vocabulary.

Her cancer journey started in her breast, eventually metastasizing into her liver and her bones, and as Vukadin-Hoitt now faces an end she never thought would come this way, she decided to reach out and do something good for the world — and others living with cancer.

Vukadin-Hoitt and her daughter, Anima, pose for a selfie.
Vukadin-Hoitt and her daughter, Anima, pose for a selfie.
Courtesy of Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt

Vukadin-Hoitt began documenting her cancer story and the cruel sense of loss that came with it — for her beautiful hair, her vitality and her ravaged body — through a series of candid photographs that share not only the physical aspects of her personal experience, but also her love for her family and the world at large. She began by collecting her imagery and thoughts on a private Instagram page.

Now, with help from some talented friends, she’ll be the star at Altered States of Beauty, a one-night exhibition of her visual memoir at ATC DEN. And as if her own story isn't enough, Vukadin-Hoitt has invited other women living with cancer to participate.

The idea for Altered States grew after Vukadin-Hoitt flew to Los Angeles for a cancer-related shoot with photographer Mud Baron, but the planned project behind it didn’t pan out. “It was enough for her to be inspired to do her own thing with the existing photos,” says publicist Rachel Feinberg. “She was lucky to have so many friends with useful skill sets to donate to the cause. One beautiful thing about being in involved in the project is seeing the community come together to support someone they love. Everyone has been so willing to make time to bring this dream to life.”

Vukadin-Hoitt dons a head wrap as her cancer journey continues.EXPAND
Vukadin-Hoitt dons a head wrap as her cancer journey continues.
Courtesy of Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt

That's enabled Vukadin-Hoitt to focus on giving back. “We’re looking to feature women who have survived breast cancer or who know someone who lost their battle," Feinberg explains. "It’s a shrine to them and to anyone who has a loved one with cancer or dealt with cancer themselves.”

Vukadin-Hoitt outlines her cause in the following statement:

The takeaway from the show is that this represents every woman. Not only every woman who has cancer, but the everywoman anywhere who goes through the struggle of fighting to be her whole self, without judgement. This is an ode to the sisterhood we are part of.

All of us who have been stricken with breast cancer/cancer deal with the news and the treatment differently. Some become advocates, some retreat into sorrow, but most of us find support through friends and family or health groups, some do all of the above. Every woman wants the breast cancer to go away, for her body to become healthy once more and to move into the future while retaining some semblance of normalcy and beauty.

Because I am naturally inclined to tell visual stories, I chose to record my ordeal using photography and social media. This was an intentional way to use my storytelling gifts as well as record for posterity, a legacy for my family and tribe. I used my personal journey to remind myself and my loved ones, who I am and as a point of reference and reverence for the archetypal woman, sister, mother, lover that is in all of us. I believe any woman can and should do her own version. I’d like to help her do that. 

Vukadin-Hoitt muses on the loss of her beautiful hair.
Vukadin-Hoitt muses on the loss of her beautiful hair.
Courtesy of Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt

Altered States has already received submissions from people living with cancer and people touched by those with cancer, and Vukadin-Hoitt and Feinberg hope more women will join in. “Plans are obviously up in the air for different reasons,” Feinberg notes, “but we’d like to continue on with this project, and maybe take the show to another market.”

So Vukadin-Hoitt and team are still collecting photos and other documentation from women touched by breast cancer, to go on display now and possibly in the future. For information or to make a submission, leave a message on the Altered States of Beauty event page on Facebook.

Join Vukadin-Hoitt, friends and family at Altered States of Beauty, a one-night exhibition and reception, on Saturday, April 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. at ATC DEN, 3420 Larimer Street. Space is limited; tickets are available for a suggested donation of $10 to $15 at Eventbrite.

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