Spare Parts - an exhibition of prosthetics art
A unique exhibition of prosthetic limbs, which have been transformed into unique pieces of art, has opened in London.
Exhibition curator, Priscilla Sutton, came up with the project when she was clearing out her wardrobe at home in Australia and found some of her own old legs. "I suddenly thought it was crazy to hold on to them. Once a leg is replaced there isn't any reason to keep an old one."
"Amputees keep them - partially as a 'just in case' but also for sentimental reasons - prosthetics become part of your body and you don't just chuck your body out."
Her initial creative idea was to invite her creative friends to turn the limbs into artworks to have on her walls at home, but the idea grew and she mounted her first exhibition at the Brisbane Powerhouse two years ago.
"I was amazed at its success," said Priscilla. "Thousands of people visited the exhibition from art lovers, to amputees, and the general community alike. School groups came for tours and it was a huge hit with kids of all ages.
"We want to turn prosthetics into a positive conversation and try to take the taboo out of the subject. High-profile people like the athlete Oscar Pistorius and the many servicemen and women who have lost limbs and are enjoying a fulfilling normal and active life are also sending out very strong positive messages.
"While the world looks on and is inspired by elite athletes, this exhibition is about the everyday life of an amputee and celebrating prosthetics. We shouldn't wait four years to feel comfortable and confident in talking about amazing legs, and Spare Parts is about just that - creating and open and positive conversation."
A fresh batch of prosthetics have been collected and new artists from UK, France, Australia, America and Japan are all working away on pieces of art which can be seen in the Spare Parts exhibition at The Rag Factory in London from 25 August to 9 September 2012.
Priscilla was also inspired by the story of Zoe Larson, now aged 7, whose courage and personality led to her getting a polka dot leg. Zoe has contributed two of her prosthetics to the exhibition.
Zoe's mother, Shannon said: "When I was 20 weeks pregnant we found that there was something not quite right with Zoe's leg. For unknown reasons, Zoe's right leg was missing the fibula bone and this resulted in a short leg and a small foot with three toes.
"It was heart breaking news at the time. I remember having a quiet cry about the idea of our little girl not ever being able to have dancing lessons - it all felt very unfair. When Zoe was born the unknown became the known - and she was beautiful.
"Zoe was about a year old when she got her first prosthetic leg - she took great pleasure in waiting until she was in the trolley at the shops before pulling her leg off and throwing it across the floor. We were always half expecting some old dear to have a heart attack!
"When she was 3 years old her favourite thing to do at the park was swing really high and then kick her leg off in mid air - at this point we were considering taking out public liability insurance!
"Zoe is 7 now, and nothing is like we thought it would be. She dances, she swims, she runs - like everybody else. She loves choosing her legs and we wait with bated breath to see what psychedelic number she comes home with.
"Zoe will gladly pull her leg off and show anyone her stump, she cheerfully tells them that the doctors 'chopped my foot off'. She is somewhat disappointed that hopping is not an Olympic sport though- because we are sure that she could hop for Australia!"
Priscilla has been an amputee since 2005, after having elective surgery to remove a worsening bone condition. She was conceived and born in Biloela - a small country town in central Queensland. It is one of a few places in Australia where a chemical called 2,4,5-T was used as a pesticide. This chemical is best known as a main component in Agent Orange.
It caused a number of birth defects, and Priscilla considers herself one of the lucky ones. She was born with a range of health challenges including a heart condition and no fibula bone in her lower right leg. The doctors wanted to amputate when she was a baby but her Mum decided that it was her choice to make, if and when she wanted to.
It finally happened when Priscilla was living in Tokyo when she was 23 years old and in terrible pain. The short walk home from the train station was getting to be too much for her, and it was late one night that she just stopped in the street and cried, and realised it was time. She soon moved back to Australia and began the process of a fresh start.
Elective surgery finally happened in November 2005 when Priscilla was 26 years old. She was working at a music venue and to help with costs she had a Foot Farewell Fundraiser. It was almost like a coming out party - where people before may have known she had a limp but didn't know how or why.
Before surgery, Priscilla also had counselling and tried to prepare herself as much as possible. She had some relaxation sessions with a psychologist / hypnotherapist and in one session Priscilla talked to her leg about all of the changes.
As crazy as it sounds it was one of the most amazing moments in Priscilla's life. Her leg told her that it was very sad that she had given up on it and the outcome was Priscilla promising to take care of her leg forever and always remember her. So she had her leg cremated, and has the ashes at home.
Priscilla didn't really get walking until about February the next year. Even though she had a great attitude it still took a long while to work out how to walk and to trust her new leg. For a short while she went to physio with her leg in a back pack. Over time she started wearing it and still used crutches. Eventually she took her first step and has never looked back.
In 2010 she finally worked out how to run. Not all amputees want to run but it was something Priscilla could never do before so it was a new goal, with her new life. She soon got a new leg for running, and made it polka dot for fun.
Using her new legs, Priscilla boxes, runs and travels extensively. "There are some challenges in life, but nothing stops me from giving everything and anything a go," she says.
"Spare Parts has helped create new conversation, share my love of prosthetics and has provided crucial support and encouragement to lots of amputees along the way."
She has two prosthetic legs to choose from in the morning, one is for running and has brightly-coloured Japanese fabric on the socket and the other leg has artwork by renowned pop surrealist Mark Ryden on it, which Priscilla is wearing in the pictures below.
Priscilla's personal story of ability over disability and her journey with Spare Parts has captured the hearts of Australians. She says: "This exhibition is a great opportunity to create an open and positive conversation about prosthetics, amputees, disability and art."
The artists in 2012 include:
- Andrew Logan belongs to a unique school of English eccentrics. One of Britain's principal sculptural artists, he challenges convention, mixes media and plays with our artistic values. Since its beginnings, Logan's work has depended on the inventive use of whatever was to hand. With flair and fantasy he transformed real objects into their new and different versions. His artistic world includes fauna, flora, planets and gods. His love of travel provides the bases for several series of work.
- Beastman is one of the most distinctive and prolific emerging artists in Australia. His tightly detailed, often symmetrical paintings depict a parallel world of hope and survival inhabited by his beastlike yet beautiful and emotive characters.
- Dan Hillier is a London based artist that creates works by collaging elements of found Victoriana and drawing with ink using a dip-nib pen.
- Elisa Jane Carmichael is a Quandamooka woman from the Ngugi people. She expresses her artwork through her strong family ties to the salt water country of Minjerribah and her spiritual connections to Mother Earth. Originally from Brisbane, Elisa currently lives in London.
- Henry Hate is a Mexican/American expatriate tattoo artist living In London. Henry is known for some of his high profile clients, such as Amy Winehouse, Alexander McQueen, David Cross, Paul Thompson of Franz Ferdinand, Pete Doherty and Preston of The Ordinary Boys to name just a few.
- Louis Molloy is a Manchester based tattoo artist who designed David Beckham's back tattoo, depicting a bald, winged, angelic figure. Louis has since completed tattoos on a number of other much loved famous Brits. He is part of the Discovery Channel's "London Ink" programme.
- Mike Leavitt is a visual artist based in Seattle and is described as "the best caricature sculptor in the city". Mike is most widely known for his "Art Army" series of handmade action figures depicting visual artists, musicians, and entertainers.
- Sam Haggarty is one of the original members of the Mutoid Waste Company, formed during the mid-1980s. The group became famous for their 'warehouse' parties, hosted in disused buildings. Sam is based in London, and has exhibited his work at many festivals including Glastonbury Festival, Fuji Rock Festival, Notting Hill Carnival, Electric Picnic and Mutate Britain in London
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