Alison Lapper is a woman who was born with no arms and shortened legs, the condition is known as ‘phocomelia’. She spent her childhood growing up in a children’s home for children with impairments. Despite her physical disabilities, Alison became an artist and sculptor. She married and fell pregnant. When Alison was seven months pregnant, an artist called Marc Quinn approached her. Marc was interested in sculpturing Alison.
The sculpture was hopefully, to be compared the Venus de Milo statue that is well known and armless. (The Guardian weekend.2005) Nevertheless, do we agree with Alison lapper’s view that her sculpture ‘makes a powerful statement about where we are trying to go in the 21st century’? Agree or disagree? Within today’s society, disabled people are more integrated. There are more facilities and job opportunities available.
This has been gradually happening before Alison Lapper’s statue was placed on the fourth plinth in triangular square in 2005. The statue has sparked a massive debate of whether it should be there, placed amongst equestrian statues of British Empire hero’s.
Documented by the BBC News (2005) The Disability Rights Commission has classed it as ‘powerful and arresting’ where others have dismissed it as ‘rather ugly’. “I felt the square needed some femininity, linking with Boudicca near the Houses of Parliament,” Mr Quinn told BBC News. (2005) It took Marc Quinn 10 months to complete the statue of Alison and he added: “Alison’s statue could represent a new model of female heroism. ” However, Robert Simon, editor of the British Art Journal (2005), slated the statue with his comment: “I think it is horrible! “.
Alison’s statue is to represent, female and disability awareness, placing both in the public eye, giving the air of defiance, challenge, and beauty with its presence. Alison Lapper’s statue, as far as my questioning has gone, has done nothing to raise the awareness of the talented disabled community out there. Nearly everybody asked had not heard of the woman or knew of the statue situated on the fourth plinth over two years ago. Women have been making a dramatic change since Women’s Liberation became a burning issue in the 1960s, under the leadership of dedicated campaigners such as Betty Friedan.
If the statue were to represent femininity then surely a tribute to Betty who has done so much for the female race would be more fitting. Why has Alison posed nude? Some people find it vulgar and feel that she is exploiting herself, thrusting everything about her, (disability, femininity, and arrogance) into their faces, causing them to dislike every inch of the sculpture. Victoria Lucas who is a freelance writer and part time arts administrator, who also has a disability, commented on ‘ouch’ website in 2005:
‘Do we really want a sculpture of a naked woman, let alone a disabled woman, in such an open place? In addition, as disabled people, are we not fed up of always having our bodies exposed and gawped at? This statement brings the question ‘has it made a difference to the disability community’? Do they think that by Alison posing nude, proud, and defiant will bring their acceptance into society? No, if they are thinking the same as Victoria. From both sides there is a debate of why she is there.
Would it not be more plausible to represent the disabled community by placing somebody like Steven Hawkins on the plinth, someone who represents disability and the most brilliance scientific mind. A person who is well known, and has achieved so much, with more of a disability than Alison has. However, if the statue were to represent disabled femininity would Tanni Grey- Thompson not be more worthy of being amongst our English heroes. Tanni is a famous wheelchair athlete who has won numerous Olympic & gold medals, a true inspiration! Conclusion
Whatever Marc Quinn’s motivation was to mount a pregnant disabled woman on a plinth amongst heroes of our past is beyond me. Whether it was for femininity, the disabled community, or his own personal recognition, I feel there are others who would deem more fitting. Although it was not Alison decision to be there, and I am sure she has achieved so much within her life, surly she should have questioned ‘why me? ‘. I feel that both of these sculptors have benefited professionally within the art world. However, their recognition outside that domain seems to have made little impression on society.
The Guardian weekend. (2005) ‘Beauty Unseen, Unsung’ Article published Saturday September 3,
BBC News (2005), The Disability Rights Commission. Broadcasted Monday, 19 September 2005, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
BBC News (2005), Marc Quinn. Broadcasted Monday, 19 September 2005, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Simon Robert 2005, British Art Journal, BBC News, Broadcasted Monday, 19 September 2005, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Victoria Lucas (2005) ‘Pregnant Alison sculpture not art?’ OUCH!…. it’s a disability thing. [online] available from: