Hi everyone, and sorry for the long silence and the lack of new pictures - it's been a very busy time for me for a while now, and finding time to produce new work is almost impossible. Hopefully there'll be some new stuff in the coming year.
In the meantime, I've been looking through my gallery recently and reading the kind comments that people leave on the pictures. And I've been re-visiting the work of some of my favourite artists too - LWG, hielga, fakgonxalex, tomalee
, and of course the brilliant excilion
(in a class of his own!) and others! It strikes me that many of us have a similar subject matter.
So I'd like to pose a question and I'd really like people to respond to it as it's an area that I find fascinating. Apologies to anyone who's really not interested, as this is going to be a long post(!).
Let me first set out my stall here and make clear what I guess my posted work should have already conveyed about what my particular 'likes' are and what pushes my buttons. It is VERY important to me that the person's disability (and amputation is the particular disability that makes a person first attractive to me) does NOT lead to dependence or helplessness. There are some who would have us believe that attraction to the disabled is the result of a need to dominate another, of revelling in another's helplessness. In my own case (and I suspect the majority of us), honestly and truly, hand on heart, this simply is not true. To the contrary, what I really like is the 'impossibility factor' - the disabled person performing physically in a way that should be impossible given the nature of their disability, achieving a goal despite the disability, and taking pleasure in that triumph.
It would be both presumptuous and overstating the case to say that the amputee should actively enjoy their physical state, but they should certainly not appear to suffer greatly because of it, either physically or emotionally. I do like the idea of the person enjoying the challenge their condition entails, though. Personally I don't particularly like the idea of the amputee as helpless victim or submissive 'object' (though I'm quite aware that others do enjoy such roles and when they're consensual that's perfectly fine). What really works for me, though, is the disability being transcended and overcome by the person's strength, skill, determination, ingenuity, effort and tenacity. Obviously, this 'performing the impossible' is most marked in cases where the disability is profound - such as extreme multiple amputation - hence my penchant for DSD/DHD (or at least DAE/DAK or DBE/DAK characters) and my preference, when prostheses are possible, for the 'cruder' types - single, non-mechanical hooks and unjointed peg-legs.
I state all that for this reason; to make the point that, given my predilections noted above, it is highly improbable that I will EVER see such people or situations in the real world. That's why we have imaginations, and why we have the means to give those imaginings a pseudo reality ... art. There are lots of implausible and/or impossible things in my artwork, as there are in others'. Excilion and Larry (LWG) in particular portray extreme amputations almost as often as I do, and Excilion's wonderful girls often use prosthetics that are fantatically 'non-standard'! I've been criticised in the past (strongly or mildly) for the 'unbelievable' nature of some of my subjects. And, to an extent, judging the subject purely on real-world probability, those criticisms are justified. Shamsi or Karen or Annie could not possibly exist as they are in the 'real' world or, more correctly, (since the disabilities themselves are perfectly feasible) if they did exist could or would certainly not do the things they do in the way they do it in my artwork. In the same way (apologies to Excilion) it is unlikely in the extreme that I would walk out of my door tomorrow and see Lucy or Annick or Cookie, let alone Nadia or Misty or Lila and Emmelin (I wish!). But actually that's not the point!
There's a long history of 'taking things beyond reality' in this particular genre (to give it a pretentious word). In art we have the works of RH Dee with his multiple amputees on crutches and 'crotch-pegs'. One of his depictions famously shows one of his favourite housemaid subjects legless and walking on just two crutches - no pegs, no false limbs, just two crutches - and she's walking down some stairs! Then there's the enigmatic 'RWW' whose work, though a little too bondage-oriented for my own personal taste, usually features extreme multiple amputees with bizarre and crude prostheses (most memorably for me a wholly limbless woman 'walking' with the aid of a crutch strapped to her chin!) In fiction, too, there is ample precedent for the extreme, going right back to the tall tales of Wallace Stort in London Life in the early part of the last century. Written as if they were factual reports, his stories are filled with beautiful young female amputees in every combination imaginable (one of the minor characters given an almost throwaway mention in 'At the Moignon D'Or.' provided inspiration for some of my own later double peg-legged characters like Shamsi).
My point is that this has been going on long enough for it to be a genuine and widespread desire among many of our select community and not just an aberration in one or two of us. Or am I wrong?.
My question is - why? Why do some of us enjoy the 'hyper-real'? Why do we need the extreme? Anybody care to venture an explanation? Is it, as I suspect, the natural progression of the two aspects of amputation that (I think) attract me to that person in that first glimpse - the 'impossibility' factor and the 'difference' factor?
When I (rarely) see an amputee in the real world two internal trains of thought are set in motion. One, I am fascinated by how they are overcoming their disability, how they 'manage'. Two, I am seduced by their physical difference and the attention they may be attracting. The delight in difference; that's another key aspect. This, of course, is long before any chance to get to know the person themselves in any real sense - it's the pure frisson of attraction on first glimpse that is common to all of us, not just those of us who are attracted to people with a disability. So it's 'How are they doing what they're doing?' and 'How do they deal with being unlike the other people around them'
This, remember, in the real world, is very very rarely if ever someone wholly limbless, or someone with a pinned up trouser leg and crutches, or someone using hooks or a peg-leg. Usually it's a person who might be missing part of an arm or have a visible artificial limb. Now if it's fascinating and emotionally involving to speculate how they are coping, how much more fascinating is it to speculate about someone whose disability and whose 'difference' is so much more marked, in missing all their limbs or balancing on twin peg-legs...?
And so we have art to take us places and show us things that the real world can't. And my skill (if I have one) as an artist, (with a background in Fantasy and SF, interestingly, as we're talking about 'unreality') is hopefully to take an unreal situation or character and make my audience suspend their disbelief, to believe that they are real in their world. Sometimes that doesn't work. But sometimes it does, and it allows us to explore the exaggerated reality that we hold in our own heads. That's why Excilion's art, and that of many others who post here, is so enjoyable - because it allows us a glimpse of a world where the extraordinary, that one in a million sighting that we may get once in a lifetime, if ever, can be enjoyed on a regular basis. In a drawing, or in Poser, I and others can take something absolutely implausible and make it seem perfectly plausible and believable - that's how Shamsi, an extreme quadruple amputee, can get around on two simple hip-length peg-legs, that's how Karen can climb stairs with just a peg-leg and a single crutch, that's how Annie can get around with her four full artificial limbs...
These are tricky issues and perhaps not wholly capable of explanation. Perhaps it's better to get on with the art and just accept that some like this particular type of work and some don't. But I confess I'd really be interested to find out how many of us like these 'unreal' extremes and how many just think that they're silly or a bit 'suspect' and prefer the constraints of the real world (if for no other reason than to 'judge my audience').
Well, thanks for your patience those of you who made it through to the end, and many thanks to all of you who express your appreciation of my work. And thinks, most of all to my fellow artists - those I've name-checked and those I haven't - who give me so much pleasure with their pictures!