Prosthetic Limbs Become Works of Art for 2012 London Paralympics Exhibition

Priscilla Sutton with a prosthetic leg
(Courtesy Priscilla Sutton)

A disused prosthetic leg, a no-longer needed prosthetic eye and an obsolete prosthetic arm may seem unlikely candidates for an artist’s canvas, but for Australian amputee Priscilla Sutton it makes perfect sense.

After deciding to have her right leg amputated below the knee because of a debilitating bone disease in 2005 at age 26, Sutton, a Brisbane-born curator, came up with the idea of launching an exhibition that brings together a diverse range of artists all using pre-loved prosthetic limbs as their canvas.

First held in Brisbane in 2010, Sutton’s Spare Parts 2012 exhibition has headed to England for the 2012 Paralympic Games during which artists from four countries, and of varying artistic backgrounds, will exhibit their artistic limbs - donated by amputees, families of amputees and clinics from all around the world - at London’s The Rag Factory.

Featuring the work of artists from Australia, the United Kingdom, America and Japan, Spare Parts 2012 aims to not only recycle old arms and legs into new and exciting artworks, but also to create an open and positive conversation, celebrating prosthetics and how much can be achieved by using them.

The idea for Spare Parts first presented itself to Sutton during a bout of spring cleaning.  “I really did want to take on a new creative project, so this was in the back of my mind and one day I was cleaning out my house and I had a couple of old legs in the cupboard,” she explains.

After the success of the Brisbane exhibition, Sutton said she would do it all again if it were during the Paralympics – so that is exactly what she did.  “I’m really inspired by the Paralympics and what these amazing athletes can achieve with their differences in life. And I think that it creates such a positive conversation about prosthetics and for me 2012 is very special because of Oscar Pistorius, who is the South African runner. He is a bit of an amputee idol for me,” Sutton told Brisbane radio station 4BC.

Spare Parts will be held at The Rag Factory in London from 25 August – 9 September 2012.

Click on the slide show to see some of the limbs being exhibited at Spare Parts 2012