Thursday, September 28, 2023

Helen Chadwick | Piss Flowers

Helen Chadwick
Piss Flowers
Self-published, 1991-1992
12 parts, each approx. 70 x 65 x 65 cm 
Edition of 5 [+ 3 APs]

Helen Chadwick's brilliant Piss Flowers debuted in 1991 as works in progress, at the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, and Mercer Union in Toronto (long before I worked there). They have subsequently been exhibited in Athens, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Liverpool, London, Mumbai, Nottingham, São Paulo, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, and Vienna.

The work was initiated during a three-week residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, in February 1991. Chadwick and her partner, David Notarius travelled to different locations, made mounds of snow and laid out a flower-shaped metal cutter. They took turns pissing in the snow and then poured plaster into the cavities. 

In a poem written the same year entitled Piss Posy, Chadwick describes the works as "Vaginal towers with male skirt/ Gender bending water sport?". The flow of her urine, described as "strong and hot", resulted in a "central penile form", her male partner's was "diffuse and cooler", creating a "labial circumference". 

The twelve bronze castings of urine-melted snow remain the Turner-Prize nominated artist's best known work. Chadwick died five years later, of a heart-attack, at the age of 42. 

“It may have been mischievous to piss in the snow, but it was damn hard work to end up with the 12 bronzes. Piss Flowers took two years, largely because I had to find £12,000 to make them.” 
- Helen Chadwick


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