Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"The Great Wall of Vagina:" A study of human individuality

One panel of "The Great Wall of Vagina"
 The big news out of England this week is not a royal wedding.  It's the debut of "The Great Wall of Vagina," at the Brighton Festival Fringe beginning on Friday, May 6.

The "Great Wall" is the work of plaster caster/artist Jamie McCartney.  McCartney owns Brighton Body Casting, a company/studio he opened to offer casting services to the public as a unique form of portraiture.  He also casts faces, torsos, etc.  in a variety of materials.

The project took five years and hundreds of volunteers -- about half from the Brighton area -- to complete.  Subjects included mothers and daughters, twins and transsexuals.  They youngest models were 18, the oldest was 76.

"The Great Wall of Vagina" in its entirety
The entire projects consists of 400 casts arranged into 40 panels.  In its entirety, the wall measures nine meters -- that's about 29.5 feet -- in length. 

On his website, McCarntey says the sculpture is " ... in no way pornographic, as it might have been if photographs had been used. One is able to stare without shame but in wonder and amazement at this exposé of human variety."

The vision, McCartney says," ... became clear to me whilst working on a not dissimilar piece for a sex museum that many women have anxiety about their genital appearance. It appalled me that our society has created yet one more way to make women feel bad about themselves. I decided that I was uniquely placed to do something about it. The sculpture comments on the trend for surgery to create the 'perfect' vagina. This modern day equivalent of female genital mutilation is a bizarre practice which suggests that one is better than another."

McCartney tried, unsuccessfully to find a victim of genital cutting to participate in the project.

"The more inclusive and complete I could be in this survey the more power this sculpture would have," McCartney said.

The Brighton Festival Fringe website describes the wall as "'The Vagina Monologues' of Sculpture."  The festival itself is is "one of the largest and fastest-growing open access arts festival in the world and the largest in England. It sets out to stimulate, educate and entertain a wide audience by providing a showcase for diverse art forms. No artistic judgment or selection criteria are imposed on participants, enabling the development of both new and established work to attract fresh audiences, press and promoters."

"The Great Wall of Vagina" will be on display until May 31.  It is rated as "suitable for ages 15+."

McCartney is in the beginning stages of marketing a do-it-yourself casting kits for vaginas as well as baby hands and feet, and adult hands.  The website promises a shopping cart system soon due to increased demand.  The kits include safe-for-the-skin alginate molding compound, casting plaster, mixing cup, brush, gloves and instructions all packaged in a bucket.

The "introductory price" for a vagina casting kit is the equivalent of approximately $64, plus shipping.

Artist Jamie McCartney talks about "The Great Wall of Vagina" and gives his favorite vagina euphemism:

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