Virginia Leonard

(New Zealand 1965 – )

All I want is a facelift

Not on display
Further information

The ceramic sculptures of New Zealand artist Virginia Leonard are self-portraits of an unusual kind. They depict, with an uncompromised intensity, not how a body looks from the outside but how it feels from the inside – in this case, a broken body.

Having sustained serious injuries after a major motorcycle accident in her 20s, Leonard has lived with chronic pain for the past three decades. This work, inflamed, lumpy, scarred and raw, seems to embody both the frustrations and the triumphs of her everyday experience – at once a ball of screaming pain, a trophy of overcoming and a manifestation of her struggle to redefine normal.

'All I want is a facelift' is Leonard’s largest work to date and argues convincingly for the physicality and mutability of the ceramic medium. It is an inquiry into how a clay object may take on many characters at once -- as decoration, as vessel, as figure -- and find currency in ambiguities and imperfections. Covered in cilia-like forms, viscous splatters of resin and collaged shards of broken clay, this is an object with no obvious front or back, beginning or end. In its confusion of parts and profusion of surfaces, we can see Leonard wrestling with flaws in search of moments of beauty.

Ceramic, Sculpture
clay, lustre, resin, steel
170.5 x 91.0 x 55.0 cm overall
Anonymous gift 2019
Accession number
© Virginia Leonard