Alison Lapper MBE (born 7 April 1965) is an English artist. She is the subject of the sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant, which was displayed on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square from September 2005 until late 2007. She and her son Parys featured in the BBC docuseries Child of Our Time.
Alison Lapper was born on 7 April 1965 in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire. She was born without arms and with shortened legs, a condition called phocomelia. She was institutionalized in her infancy, and is still distant from her relatives. When she was fitted with artificial limbs, she felt that their aim was not to help her, but merely to make her look less disconcerting to others: she therefore abandoned them, and learned to live without external aids.
She left Chailey Heritage School at the age of 17, and moved to London. She then attended the Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for Disabled People, in Banstead, Surrey until the age of 19, where she learned to drive. She completed both 'O' and 'A'-levels in art at Sutton College of Learning for Adults, before pre-foundation and foundation courses at Heatherley School of Fine Art.[page needed]
Lapper uses photography, digital imaging, and painting to, as she says, question physical normality and beauty, using herself as a subject. She is a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World (AMFPA), having joined as a student member and receiving a full membership after her college graduation. One particular influence is the sculpture Venus de Milo, due to the physical similarities between the idealised classical female statue and Lapper's own body. She has taken part in various British exhibitions, including in the Royal Festival Hall. In May 2003, Lapper was awarded an MBE for her services for art.
After she had given birth to her son Parys in 2000, she created an installation of photographs of herself with him. Lapper and her son featured on the BBC television documentary Child of Our Time. In 2006, she published her book My Life in My Hands.
Marc Quinn sculptureEdit
Lapper was the subject of Marc Quinn's sculpture, Alison Lapper Pregnant. Initially she refused to pose for him, unsure of the manner in which he intended to depict disability. She wanted to be sure his perspective was not one of pity.
Quinn observed that ancient statues whose limbs had fallen off were now often highly regarded. His aim was to create equally beautiful representations of bodies born naturally in that way. When he phoned again a few months later, Lapper informed him she was now seven months pregnant. His reply was, "That's even better!" In November 1999, Lapper went to Quinn's studio to have a cast made.
The sculpture is made of Carrara marble. It occupied the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square between September 2005 and late 2007. A large replica featured in the 2012 Summer Paralympics opening ceremony.
Lapper had a son, Parys, with whom she was pregnant when posing for the Marc Quinn sculpture. He died suddenly from a suspected accidental drug overdose in August 2019, aged 19. His mother afterwards said that he had been bullied at school over her disability, which led to his being sectioned for mental health problems at the age of 17.
- Lapper, Alison (3 September 2005). "Beauty unseen, unsung". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 February 2012. Extract from autobiography, Lapper (2005) harvtxt error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFLapper2005 (help).
- Thompson, Melissa (28 February 2013). "'He's sulky and Xbox-obsessed and I'm so relieved': Paralympics icon Alison Lapper happy her son is typical teenager". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
- Saner, Emine. "Alison Lapper: 'Disabled people are looked at as a drain on society, and I'm certainly not that'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Treneman, Ann (11 October 1997). "From the age of six weeks to 17, Alison Lapper was one of the 'strange little creatures' of the Chailey Heritage institution". The Independent. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
- Alison, Lapper. My life in my hands. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780743275583.
- "Marc Quinn: Alison Lapper Pregnant". Fourth Plinth. Greater London Authority. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
- Hart, Christopher (25 September 2005). "Review: My Life in My Hands by Alison Lapper with Guy Feldman". Times Online. London. Retrieved 5 May 2008.
- Lyall, Sarah (10 October 2005). "In Trafalgar Square, Much Ado About Statuary". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2008.
- Higgins, Charlotte (16 September 2005). "Sculpture's unveiling is pregnant with meaning". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
- "BBC Newsnight Review, 15 September 2005".
- Press Association (28 July 2014). "Artist Alison Lapper given honorary doctorate | Art and design". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
- "Disabled artist Alison Lapper's son Parys dies". BBC News. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- Walker, Amy (1 September 2019). "Alison Lapper says late son Parys was bullied over her disability". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
- "Alison Lapper's son Parys 'bullied at school' before death". BBC News. 3 September 2019. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
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