Jamie McCartney’s Great Wall of Vagina at Hay Hill Gallery
Hay Hill Gallery offers a therapy through art for every woman chasing the ideal beauty. Surrounded by idealized and impossible ideals, people tend to lose the sense of the reality and the average. But the ideals referred to are not the smooth faces and faultless bodies of Photoshop goddesses, but about vaginas and the taboo of the vulva. At least, that is the intention of artist Jamie McCartney, who offers the broadest insight into appearances of real feminine genitalia, which can be conceived during one visit to the art gallery.
Nine metres long, The Great Wall of Vagina is composed of 10 panels, comprising 400 plaster casts of vaginas of a variety of feminine volunteers, aged 18-76. Among them are mothers and daughters, identical twins, transgendered men and women as well as a woman pre- and post-natal and another one pre- and post-labiaplasty. McCartney believes that his work will comfort women considering aesthetic surgery by showing what is normally hidden or improved by the pornography industry. Similarly, says the artist, the panel consisting of excited penises is potentially reassuring for the majority of men, who have never seen another man’s erection in the flesh.
The idea of a “great wall” might appear to be a voyeuristic fantasy of a misogynic collector-erothoman, but in fact the piece is highly aestheticized by an almost rhythmical repetition of elegantly matte, monochromatic casts, which remind of the ideal surfaces of Canova’s sculptures in Carrara marble. It was more than a century ago that a realist, Gustave Courbet, devoted one of his canvases to female genitalia, but McCartney approached the topic more frontally and directly. Therefore, because of this scientifically-statistical attitude, the piece is almost gynaecological and totally asexual. Still, it is having an effect, as either offensive or liberating.
The Great Wall of Vagina addresses the problem of the ideal beauty model, as are some other sculptures in the exhibition, which unfortunately do not seem to have the same potential. Reclining nude and Skin Deep are examining the problem by skimming the surface of the empty, polished outer shells of skin. The female-morphic sculpture The Impossibility of Passion reveals his apparent inspirations with Salvador Dali and other surrealists. Finally, the new series of photographic images made with a high-definition scanner, seem to reveal a joy of a person who has just discovered the appeal of scanner-generated images. Apparently, McCartney, after making a well-rounded piece, is now experimenting and looking for new means of formal expression.
Hay Hill Gallery is running the Skin Deep exhibition until 2nd June, and it is noteworthy to confront and form an opinion of The Great Wall of Vagina, because it is a piece that may be widely heard of in the future.
Skin Deep is at Hay Hill Gallery until 2nd June 2012. For further information or to book visit the exhibition’s website here.
Click here for The Great Wall of Vagina’s video gallery.