I imagine that the well-heeled crowd that came along to Hay Hill Gallery in Mayfair this week to see the opening night of Jamie McCartney’s Great Wall of Vagina and chatted over a glass were not the type to frequent the other types of establishment where endless vaginas might be on display. Give the female anatomy a bronze cast, or an artistic twist and what could be mistaken for a foray into vulgarity suddenly becomes something far more meaningful and socially acceptable.
The Great Wall is the culmination of five years’ work from Brighton based artist Jamie McCartney. While I would describe the collection as a ‘labour of love’ McCartney prefers to refer to his work as 'art with a social conscience'. The artist uses the medium of sculpture to convey a message through humour with the added punch of shock-factor. The body of work is intended to send a clear picture to women about how other women look between the legs. The overall impact should be a generation of young women who are happier with every aspect of themselves.
The surge in the number of women who are having labiaplasty, or asking for a ‘designer vagina’ is tantamount to a nation of women who feel that to be physically perfect is to be emotionally happy. With over 400 cast vaginas along the walls of the gallery it’s easy to see that the next vagina can look astoundingly different from the one before. As an example of difference McCartney uses comparisons like identical twin sisters, a mother and daughter, and transgender vaginas. The main idea behind the casts is to promote positive body image in women.
I had a chance to talk to McCartney about his work and while this exhibition is predominantly based on his works of the female form, I compliment him on a piece named After, which he tells me is a cast of his father’s head, taken after his death and set in bitumen.
We go on to talk about the challenges of creating some of the pieces. The scaled down bronze panels, each of forty vaginas, are hand sculpted in their new size. McCartney tells me how he has supposed that the smaller size would be more manageable but soon realised that remaking a whole panel of his work in miniature would be no mean feat.
The most intriguing piece I saw was the rather remarkable Internal Affairs which prompted me ask about its incarnation. Talking me briefly through the process McCartney tells me how he consulted with a doctor before making the internal cast using that same material that dentists use when making imprints. The use of glass, rather than on opaque like plaster or bronze, is to convey the feeling that this piece is the representation of a space rather than an object. The finished piece does everything that was intended.
Peaked Your Interest?
As a debut London show The Great Wall of Vagina was placed well in the slowly liberating art scene of Cork Street. The show will be open until June 2nd 2012 at the Hay Hill Gallery and for anyone who has a real interest in getting involved there are opportunities to showcase your own vagina in upcoming exhibitions. Or buy the book with excerpts from the models, and lots of pictures.
I loved the show and I’ll be waiting for McCartney to add to the less-than-uniform panel of 16 penises that were on display.