Friday, May 11, 2012

Discovering Alison Lapper

During my phocomelia research, I came across reports of a controversial statue, Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn. After seeing the breathtaking sculpture, I dug in to find out about this muse, and discovered she is an artist as well. Her work is a powerful examination of body image, beauty culture, and feminism. I grinned when I saw a mother with phocomelia, who wears her hair short and spiky, and changes the color of it often.

Here is one of her digital pieces:

Here is a statue of Alison in Trafalgar Square, by Marc Quinn.

"Alison Lapper Pregnant" by Marc Quinn

Alison, too identifies with the Venus de Milo. (I visited the broken statue theme several times in my student art.) This delights me so much, I can barely stand it. She's amazing. She, too, must have confronted body image concerns again and again. During this pregnancy, I wonder, did she too wish for her child to be unaffected by her anomalous genes? And did that dredge from her unconscious the creeping, hidden insecurities that worm away beneath the warrior-woman-proudly-strange-beauty persona we both constructed from/for our lives? And my own quiet fear voice asked: Is she stronger, braver, more adept than me? She seems so fierce. But I've always been pretty in-your-face as well... It's so alien to encounter someone I see as so like me- a role model? With no hands, an artist, a mama- but I'm so aware of what I have that she doesn't. She grew up in an institution for kids with severe disabilities- my parents were so incredibly supportive. She paints with her feet and mouth- I have one hand that easily grasps my pens and brushes. My mouse, my beloved keyboard. I want to know her better, so I order her book from Amazon UK.

During my ordeals with my back, I've been confronting the idea of disability- after my whole life I've balked at the notion of being disabled because of my arm, now my hidden, crooked spine sweeps the rug from that persona. Now I'm the woman in bed for days. The limping mom with a strained expression. But, like every other mental breakthrough I've EVER had, I see now that this label disability is fluid and temporal. Relative. Some days I just have to surrender. Some days I can walk a few blocks and drive a good bit.

I'm acutely aware right now of how much of my body works. Looking at Alison pregnant I remember the gratitude washing through me when I conceived. I was in gaping awe that the surgeon's careful redesign of my uterus and vagina allowed me to get pregnant easily, to have a brilliant and enjoyable pregnancy, and then deliver naturally, albeit with difficulty.

I'm so curious how this incredible person framed her life in her book, and to read more about her wonderful art work. A book review will certainly be posted.

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