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|INFORMER ARTS: Hand-Me Down Hands|
|MONDAY, 28 MAY 2012|
|The SPARE PARTS initiative breathed new life into leftover limbs in 2010. This year, curator PRISCILLA SUTTON has booked an extra seat to London for all her favourite legs. ZENOBIA FROST finds out more.Spare Parts finds its origins in Dora the Explorer. No, really. Sutton shares a prosthetic clinic with a young lady, Zoe, who – at age five – was determined to have a Dora leg. “At that moment,” says Sutton, “she stole my heart and inspired me to think out of the box. I told my prosthetist to hold off on the black – that I had another idea.”Sutton’s beloved polka dot leg (recently retired) was a life-changing limb. “It changed many people’s perceptions of what a prosthetic limb is supposed to look like – especially for a woman.”
As Zoe has outgrown both Dora and her legs, her hand-me-downs have gone to Sutton. “I have three of Zoe’s old legs,” she says. “They are so, so gorgeous and tiny and colourful.”
Prosthetic donations come from all over. “I recently bought an eye on eBay that’s now a soft sculpture by Gold Coast artist Erika Gray (aka Erk),” says Sutton. Another limb – the most vintage piece in the collection – came from the vaults from Queensland Health, and was saved from the bin by a friend.
Many donations come from the families of amputees who have passed away. “It’s a really nice way to see part of their loved one live on,” says Sutton. “I love hearing stories of them, and their funny prosthetic moments. It’s always very heart-warming to be entrusted with a piece of a loved one.”
The goal of Spare Parts is to give fellow amputees a leg-up by transforming their leftover limbs into art. All prosthetics are necessarily custom, and are usually trashed when their time is up, but Sutton’s artists grant them an afterlife with two purposes: to be affecting pieces of art, and to raise awareness of the issues that amputees encounter.
“Sometimes people don’t realise that there is much more to prosthetics than just whacking any old leg on,” says Sutton. “There is no such thing as a leg shop. And those old ones you see on eBay listed as ‘in great condition – still okay to wear’? They are just pulling your leg, if you’ll pardon the pun.”
Sutton sees Spare Parts’ role as keeping the conversation going. She ensures that the artists get paid for their time and effort, but Spare Parts itself supports a great number of charities. “In Laos there is a charity called COPE who can make a below-knee leg for US$50,” she says. “Pretty amazing!”
Sutton’s own polka dot limb is awaiting new life in her office. She’s not sure what the future holds for Polka: “lamp, vase, pen-holder?” Those of us who wear spectacles all day know the value of multiple pairs (there are some things my fire engine red cat-eyes just don’t go with), and it’s no different for amputees. Thus, Polka has reincarnated in two forms: a light leg for running and boxing, with a Japanese print – and a “super-special leg” for when Sutton “wants to frock up” with a print by artist Mark Ryden.
Proving once again that brilliant things come out of Brisbane, Sutton is taking Spare Parts all the way to the UK, where new limbs by new artists – along with some old favourites – will be exhibited at London’s Rag Factory in August and September, coinciding in part with the Paralympics.
To make this adventure possible, an upcoming benefit gig at The Zoo will raise funds to help with the expensive business of shipping art overseas, and features bands, prizes and raffles aplenty, with a double pass to Soundwave 2013, vouchers for The Junk Bar, packs from dogstar, “lots and lots of delicious wine” from Sirromet, and much more up for grabs. But if you can’t make it to the gig, drop in on the Spare Parts Pozible.com account for your chance to acquire a leg of your own.
“The Zoo is my old stomping ground,” says Sutton. “It’s where I worked and booked bands for years, and it’s where I held my Foot Farewell Party before I had my leg amputated. For me,” she says, “this is a full-circle show – to be back at The Zoo raising money for this next chapter of my life.”
SPARE PARTS holds its LONDON CALLING gig at The Zoo on Thursday Jun 7, featuring live music from The Good Ship, Danny Widdicombe and Tylea, plus Patience from The Grates as MC. Tickets are $12 and available from www.zoo.oztix.com.au. DOGSTAR clothing will also be holding a Market Day in support of Spare Parts at their 1 Burke St, Wooloongabba Studio on Sunday Jun 17, 10.30am – 3pm.www.spareparts2012.com