Carolyn Munaco followed the ambulance in her car, keeping an eye on its precious cargo, until it came to a stop.
They had arrived at Kanas Hospice Center — where the nurses helped Munaco’s mother into bed, and where her daughter found herself completely overwhelmed.
She excused herself, taking a seat on the deck outside her room, when she noticed a red dragonfly right next to her.
Days later, on October 23, her mother would die from stage four breast cancer — a diagnosis that came five years earlier, when it had already metastasized through her body — and as Munaco mourned, she could not stop thinking about that dragonfly.
Out of curiosity, she did a little research, and the results floored her.
According to Native American tradition, red dragonflies often appear after a long period of trial and hardship, bringing hope after or surrounding the death of a loved one. They were perceived as “souls of the dead” taking form in the spirit of the dragonfly, offering assurance that the soul is free.
“The dragonfly is supposed to be a sign of times changing. It’s a rebirth, a new outlook,” Munaco said. “It’s basically a turning point.”
So when the artist was contemplating what she would create for this year’s “Reconstructed Bra Fashion Show & Auction” — a benefit for local breast cancer organizations Lucia’s Angels and the Coalition for Women’s Cancers at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, to be held Thursday night at Southampton Social Club — the answer was clear.
“I knew I wanted to do the red dragonflies, and I wasn’t really so sure how, so I kind of worked it out in my head,” she said. “I wanted to incorporate marine debris and plastic garbage that I picked up from the beach, because I do that a lot.”
The tails of each dragonfly — one affixed to each bra cup — are made of red bottle caps and attached to aluminum wire bodies covered with a red balloon. The heads are abandoned tennis balls she found on the beach, with eyes also made from bottle caps, and the wings are finished with wrapped needlepoint threading.
“It was really tough to make this year. Before, I could see the direct link to the help for my mom. That right there is a huge driving force for anybody. And now, I don’t have that direct link,” Munaco said. “But there are so many people and so many friends that, in general, need this, so I’m going to do this as many times as they want me to come back.”
Munaco is one of 20 artists who designed a reconstructed bra that will be modeled and auctioned off live at the eighth annual event, which raised $40,000 last year, according to organizer Stacy Quarty, president of Lucia’s Angels and vice president of the Coalition for Women’s Cancers.
“I am surprised and amazed by the bras every year. People keep coming up with the most amazing, creative bras,” she said. “We haven’t had a complete repeat ever; they’re all unique and different. We have such a variety this year, from a metal artist who did a bra called ‘Wonder Woman,’ which kind of looks like the bra that was worn in the movie, to a ceramic artist who did a bra of these tiny dragons.”
Quarty laughed, and continued. “So that bra didn’t fit the model that it was supposed to fit. It’s actually quite small — she’s a 36DD and he designed for, like, a 34A. So we had somebody else do her other bra, but since this is really such a work of art, we’re silent auctioning it. We’ve never done this before, so we’re going to see how it goes.”
Typically, each bra fetches between $250 and $3,000, and the bidding can sometimes get “a little nuts,” she said, with family and friends raucously cheering on the artists and models, some of whom are survivors themselves.
“Breast cancer is a serious issue, and it’s something that can be very tragic, and we have lost a lot of ladies over the years, which is difficult,” she said. “But at the same time, when you’re battling something like that, you’ve gotta find the levity in things, otherwise it’s just impossible. This is a wonderful opportunity for people to get out there and really have fun with the whole idea of boobs.”
The evening is a reminder to not give up hope — “to live your life, to live your life of love,” Munaco said. That is what her mom would want, she said.
“It was a tough go, but my mom was a trooper, I’ll tell you that,” Munaco said. “She was awesome. Everybody loved her. She worked in the schools all through us — her four children — growing up, and all the students called her ‘Mom.’ They went to her for whatever they needed. She just had such an open and understanding and caring heart; she didn’t judge. She didn’t judge anybody. She was just a great person.
“My mom was alive for the first few bra auctions that I did,” she continued, “and she thought it was the greatest thing. She loved it. My mom is very into art, also, and anything we could do to help raise money for the causes that I believe in — or we believed in — is the greatest thing. And she encouraged me to do so. I know she still would now.”
The eighth annual Reconstructed Bra Fashion Show & Auction will be held on Thursday, May 17, at 7 p.m. at the Southampton Social Club, located at 256 Elm Street in Southampton. Advance tickets are $55 or $65 at the door. Proceeds will benefit Lucia’s Angels and the Coalition for Women’s Cancers at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. For more information, please visit luciasangels.org/bra
The Night’s High Fashion