No, this isn’t really a follow-up to my earlier post, Pregnant in public. I just couldn’t resist the urge to echo the title here.
The photograph on the right shows a statue, “Alison Lapper Pregnant”, currently on display in Trafalgar Square. It is an accurate representation (aside from its 16-foot height!), having been made from a plaster cast of Ms. Lapper’s body.
Alison Lapper was born with no arms and only partial legs (the condition is called phocomelia). But in all other respects she is perfectly normal — including the capacity to conceive and carry a baby.
(Ms. Lapper often poses nude. I believe she conceived the concept for this photo herself.)
Ms. Lapper survived a very difficult start in life. She was raised in an orphanage where the staff terrorized the children. She would have been adopted into a loving home, but her mother put a stop to it for some reason. Eventually she got married, but her husband wanted only to abuse her. Heather Mallick tells the story:
No family member on either side spotted anything wrong with him. … On their wedding night, he shut the door of their room and turned to her with an odd expression on his face. “You’re mine now and you’ll do as I tell you.”
The greatest thing any woman should fear is a man who seeks to control. Imagine a man who feels the need to control even a limbless woman. Once, he started to pull her slowly off the kitchen table, mocking her as she approached the edge where she would fall and break her head open. Desperate, she bit his arm, drawing blood. She divorced him.
Today, Ms. Lapper is an artist: she paints by holding a brush in her mouth. She is also the single mother of a five year old son, Parys. After a brief relationship with an able-bodied man, she says, “I quite unexpectedly, and quite happily fell pregnant, and he ran a mile”.
The statue will only be displayed in Trafalgar Square for eighteen months. Even so, it is causing some controversy. Some critics don’t think it’s art, or at least not very good art. And some members of the British public don’t think the subject matter is suitably historic/heroic for Trafalgar square. Phil says:
I think it’s a cool statue, but I don’t think it’s right for here. All the other statues in the Square are of national heroes, so — no offence to her, because she’s a great person and she’s done some really good work — I think we should have another national hero up here.
But Ms. Lapper says,
I think it’s brilliant. Where else in the world can you see a 16-foot sculpture of a naked, disabled, pregnant woman? The fact that a major work by a well-known English artist [Marc Quinn] is concerned with disability is a turnaround — though Parys is most upset that he’s in my tummy and you can’t see his face. I’m not a champion of the disabled world, but it’s a joy when people come over after seeing me on TV and say it really made them think.
OK, maybe it isn’t particularly inspired as a work of art. But a lot of contemporary art isn’t very uplifting, whereas this piece is. Jackie says it beautifully:
It’s a really beautiful piece, and I think it makes you look at the body of the person very sympathetically. It’s very rounded, very appealing. I think that’s a lovely thing to bring that forward — when we don’t normally think of a disabled person’s body as being beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. It’s an interesting coming together of an aesthetic artform with a body that you wouldn’t normally look at it in that way. I find it really affirming. I’d certainly prefer to see this than more sculptures of war heroes.”
“I would pick Parys up by his clothes with my teeth and lay him across my shoulder. I breast-fed him for ten months with him in a sling across my chest. I’ve never been able to hold him in my arms, but we were very physical with one another, so we haven’t missed out.”