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ALISON LAPPER (born 1965)



Alison is a remarkable woman using any measurement.
Her parents felt they couldn't bring her up and were encouraged to send her away after her birth so she was sent to a children's home.



She's now a talented photographer and artist and through using her body as the subject of her pictures has done a lot to challenge many people's ideas about disability and physical beauty. Some of her images are quite shocking at first but that feeling soon evaporates when through them you begin to see the beauty of all bodies. Her stunning images project her personality which comes over as strong and very positive and lively.
She is outspoken about how narrow-minded people are about disability and sex and people's bodies.

 

When Alison's mother had given birth a cleaner came in and said these words to her:
"Can you hear all that screaming down the corridor? That's a baby that's just been born. She's in a terrible state. She's got no arms or legs and there's a big red mark all across her face. It's a horrible looking thing. The nurses say she'll die in a day or two, or else be a cabbage for the rest of her life. There's a bit of a panic going on. They don't know what to do. Neither do the doctors. I expect they're waiting for it to die."

That baby was Alison and she had a condition called phocomelia. At the children's home she grew up with other children who had been rejected because they were disabled and made close friends with two of them, Tara Flood and Peter Hull. They formed a close-knit trio and became family for each other.
She lived for many years at Chailey Heritage School, a residential home for the severely disabled, where she stayed until she was 18 years old.

Alison next went to the Heatherley School of Fine Art and then to Brighton University where she got a First Class Honours degree in 1994.

In 2000 after a short relationship with an able-bodied man, Alison became pregnant. She is now a happy single mother of her son Parys.

In 2003 she won a Woman of the Year award in Spain and received the MBE in Britain for services to art. She's also been featured in the BBC TV "Child of Our Time" series. In that series Alison has talked about the prejudice she's encountered from Social Services because she's a disabled mother.
"They've threatened me three times now when I've had no care for Parys - on one occasion it was because I had to sack an au pair because she was smacking him. If I was an able-bodied mother they wouldn't do this."

 

Before giving birth Alison was used as the subject of a sculpture by her friend Marc Quinn. This sculpture was chosen in 2005 to fill the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square and this brought Alison to the attention of the media. Many people were shocked by seeing a naked and pregnant woman in such a prominent and famous place but others responded positively to the sheer beauty of the piece. They thought it was a fitting addition to the square and that it was a good thing for a female statue to join the figures of a king, two generals and the naval hero Lord Nelson.



This is a comment I found on the Internet:
"I recently visited England to celebrate the birth of my sonís first child. To view the stunningly beautiful statue of Alison Lapper in Trafalgar Square was an additional blessing in this journey to celebrate life. I am heartfully moved by this wonderful work of art and by the courageous spirit of the artist & the subject. Kudos to London for celebrating diversity."
Kathleen Shelton


Alison's reaction is typically cheerful and forthright "At least I didn't get there by slaying people," she said.