LONDON (AP) — Prosthetics can change the life of an amputee. But when an old limb no longer fits or just gets worn out, it can be hard to part ways with an item that offered the liberating chance to jump, dance or simply walk.
Priscilla Sutton has a solution: turn these “pre-loved” limbs into artwork. The Australian curator came up with “Spare Parts London,” an exhibition of altered prosthetics that has opened in time for the Paralympics, which start Wednesday.
“I was cleaning my home and I found two old legs in my cupboard,” said Sutton, a below-the-knee amputee. “I thought it was a bit crazy to keep hoarding my legs.”
The exhibition, which includes works by artists from Britain, Australia, the United States and Japan, comes as people are paying new attention to the devices.
Public awareness of prosthetics has been heightened by the popularity of double amputee Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, the South African known as the “Blade Runner.” The exhibition will showcase the “Cheetah” — the carbon fiber running leg Pistorius uses that has a flex foot designed to replicate the hind leg of the fastest animal on land.
The show also displays arms and legs hanging from the ceiling and others in glass cabinets. A creation by British artist Rachel Ball features a little girl’s leg covered in colorful crochet and painted with henna on the foot.
“It reflects the original owner’s personality,” Sutton said.
Since coming up with the idea, 33-year-old Sutton has collected prosthetics donated by amputees, their families or health services around the world.
“I got a box of arms from the NHS (Britain’s National Health Service),” she said.
Owners change their prosthetics for a variety of reasons, including wear and weight fluctuations. For kids, the stump changes as they grow. For adults, muscles sometimes waste away.
While many keep their limbs for sentimental reasons — parents might keep the first leg of their children, for example — many limbs also end up on the scrap heap.
Sutton hopes the art show will lead to an open conversation about prosthetics, but others argue there are better uses for them.
“It seems an odd way to showcase it,” said Penny Broomhead, a physiotherapist specializing in rehabilitation for amputees. “I would rather people look at it in a more practical point of view.”
Broomhead thinks a better use for old prosthetic limbs would be to send them to developing countries, where their components could potentially provide prosthetics to those who can’t afford them.
“Spare Parts London” marks the second time Sutton has used legs and arms as artwork, after a 2010 show on the same theme in Brisbane, Australia.
Sutton said the earlier exhibition made people ask questions they never dared to ask before, such as whether she sleeps with her leg. (The answer is no).
Sutton was born without a fibula in her right leg and the doctors wanted to amputate. Her family left it up to her.
“In my twenties, I took the decision to chop it off because it was getting worse and worse,” she said. “It was the best decision of my life and I never looked back.”
After her operation, Sutton had her leg cremated.
“It was a good form of closure,” she said.
She has two “spare parts:” An “everyday” leg covered with a design by American pop surrealist artist Marc Ryden and a sports leg that displays a traditional Japanese print with gold flowers and cherries.
The curator said the exhibition was a therapeutic experience to produce.
“I think it’s a wonderful way to celebrate and share my love of prosthetics,” she said.
“Spare Parts London” is at The Rag Factory, Brick Lane, in London until Sept. 9.
More Related Stories
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
- Mary Karr: David Foster Wallace and I kept each other alive
- Morgan Freeman sleeps during televised interview
- J.J. Abrams reveals deleted shower scene with Benedict Cumberbatch
- Is the anti-gay backlash on?
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- Cannes: Ryan Gosling's new movie draws the boo-birds
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- Juror responds to Joe Francis' insults with thoughtful email
- New track from the Lonely Island features Solange Knowles, semicolons
- Amazon introduces fan fiction publishing platform
- Naomi Watts, "Argo," "Wonderstone" among bizarre Teen Choice Awards nominees
- Imprisoned Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike
- The camp-free "Behind the Candelabra"
- Justin Bieber will destroy you if you live-tweet his parties
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11