Following a previous popular blog post about Jamie McCartney (and his ‘Great Wall of Vagina’) that I did a few months ago, I’m excited to mention his current exhibition in London called ‘SKIN DEEP’ (running until 9th June at Hay Hill Gallery).The show features his iconic ‘Great Wall of Vagina’ and his newer photographic work ‘Physical Photography’ (taken without a camera). ‘SKIN DEEP’ focuses on notions of beauty and society’s obsession with the physical self.
The Great Wall of Vagina:
This iconic sculpture is of great social importance and is a highly provocative response to the exponential rise in cosmetic labial surgeries. By confronting the viewer and revealing the diversity of female genital appearance, McCartney opposes any notion of a singularly “perfect” aesthetic, thereby forcing society to rethink its relationship with the vulva.
“It’s time our society grew up around these issues and I’m certain that art has a role to play.” Jamie McCartney
It’s not vulgar, it’s vulva. This isn’t just sensation, it is art with a social conscience. The sculpture has caught the public’s imagination, using the twin approaches of humour and spectacle. Having captured their attention it then educates about what normal women really look like ‘down there’. The Great Wall of Vagina, is recognised worldwide for its artistic impact and social importance. Created from 400 plaster casts taken from volunteers’ vulvas this “Vagina Monologues of sculpture” sculpture is succeeding in changing the lives of women around the world.
By pushing the photographic equipment (a simple A4 document scanner) beyond the purpose for which it was intended, McCartney stamps his experimental credentials. With this improvised “digital camera” he pioneers a new form of photography, creating scanned images of the body that have both a stark reality and a particular and beautiful aesthetic. The impact of these huge body portraits, of up to six feet square, is extremely powerful.
“I wanted to depict my models in their natural state without recourse to the scourge of image manipulation.” Jamie McCartney
McCartney is decidedly painterly in his approach, taking photography in its literal sense of painting with light. The images are very reminiscent of old master paintings. His ‘camera’ is in physical contact with the model as the images are slowly produced. A single image can take up to two hours. With an emphatically collaborative and intimate process, McCartney redefines the relationship and the distance between the photographer, equipment and model, and the resulting images are imbued with a strong sense of personality.