Friday, February 3, 2012

Double Expresso: The Aesthetics of Prosthetics

by Drew Martin
When I worked at BMW as a graphic artist, my smokey, bear-hunting/Vietnam-vet boss would swagger in each morning, throw himself in his chair, take off his synthetic leg, lay it on his desk in front of me and rub the stump of the leg he lost test-riding one of their motorcycles. It was not a pretty sight. Amputations are typically not pleasing to the eye but I was always fascinated by them. One of my earliest memories of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was seeing a young woman in a tank-top with an artificial arm and hook. She wore it proudly and I thought it was really cool. In middle school, I obtained a copy of an amputation procedure manual from my Spanish teacher whose husband was a surgeon. My science projects and term papers were about prosthetics and the only thing I had to show BMW of related work in my interview was an exploded view of an artificial leg I designed for athletes when I in high school. It has been amazing to see what has developed since my childhood. The carbon fiber "blade runner" makes it possible for double amputees to compete in world-class track events and athletes including Aimee Mullins (pictured here) and Oscar Pistorius helped established a new Pan-like aesthetic of the human form. Both of them are models as well.