Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fiore de Henriquez

The ever-amazing Ali just sent me this link to an article by Jan Marsh about Fiore de Henriquez, an extraordinary sculptor by the sounds of things... Here is an excerpt to whet your appetites, but please, read the whole piece! I almost cried with joy:

"I was two years old when I start drawing, always strange things. They say I was crazy and maybe it's true. I always have periods of suffering, of feeling too much, like I want to throw myself down the mountain." Twins, doubles, siblings and pairs are another repeated motif, in stone and bronze sculptures dotted all around Peralta's narrow pathways and steps. Together, these dyads and polymorphic figures provide the key to their creator's hermaphrodite nature. For physically as well as psychically, Fiore is part-female and part-male; or, in her own words invoking Ovid's account of the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, "semi-gods: halfway between the gods and man".

"My mother used to call me a monster. She said to Margot Fonteyn's mother, 'Why have you such a beautiful daughter and I have this?' But I didn't feel like a monster. A third sex, yes; but I was quite honoured: I felt I was part of the Greek legends."

Fiore's androgynous identity encompasses more than gender duality. Italian-born, she has been a British citizen since 1953, and divides her time between Tuscany and London, where she has a small studio near Sloane Square. Hermaphroditism is a rare and seldom-documented condition. Today, children with uncertain sexual identity owing to ambiguous genitalia are subject to early medical intervention involving surgery and hormones, although some have subsequently become angry with such imposed "gender assignment", which often resolves nothing. Fiore's case is different from this and from transsexuality. Raised as a girl, since puberty she has had the characteristics of both sexes, simultaneously. "My poor mother did not deserve to have a child like me. She always wanted to dress me in velvet, with bows in my hair that I hated. Then, when I was 13 or 14, I woke up one night with a peculiar pain in the abdomen. I thought, this must mean menstruation is starting. Which indeed it was, but together with this, came out another thing, like a small penis. I thought, 'Oh, my God, what is that?' It was most extraordinary. After that, I felt like a boy, never like a girl. Some of the time, this thing stayed inside; but if I needed help, if I was in trouble, if I was angry, yes, then it came out. No, I kept it secret, from my mother, my father, everybody. I must say I didn't like it later when these bosoms developed; I thought it was very undignified: I wanted to cut them off. But no! You don't change what God has made. I prefer to let nature take its course. So from then I decided to be proud."

Photo of Fiore from

'Internationally acclaimed sculptress whose work included life-sized statues, monumental public commissions and nearly 500 portrait busts of such figures as Queen Mother, Laurence Olivier, President Kennedy, and even a young Oprah Winfrey, whose sculptures often reflected gender dualities and tortured mythical figures, and who kept a painful secret of her own all of her life, only recently revealing that she was a hermaphrodite who struggled for much of her life with gender identity, died on June 5 (2004) at the age of 82.'

More photos and quotations from Jan's conversations with Fiore at Art and Androgyny.

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