Votive Figure

Marta Zgierska

2019 - Ongoing


After a serious car accident, my body, physically affected, naturally became a tool for studying the reality. I’m stitching painful performative process in colorful sweet aesthetics, taken from the visual code characteristic for the modern beauty industry, to tell about current opression of feminine body. I explore the canons of feminine beauty and undermine the pressure that the contemporary society exerts on the woman’s image.

In the modern world, Beauty is god. A deity that requires frequent sacrifice. I make votive wax figures to beseech the deity to make me beautiful. By covering my own body in a wax shell, I myself become a votive figure. I make a sacrifice of my body to this new god.

The color on the wax is not decorative in itself, it is driven by the beauty products used to decorate the body, a representation of the cult of beauty. The trace of lipstick, shining through the waxen layer, marks the point of contact between the living body and the shell.

The beauty of the body has become religion, and its cult, in a paradoxical twist, spreads best through virtual reality, gaining millions of followers in the process. For many, the depiction of appealing, desirable body becomes the only pursuit, a way of life, a stepping stone to a life of fame and fortune. The body and its beauty have become commodities that can be monetized to an unprecedented extent. And inexorably, we ourselves have become a part of that particular reality.

As an organic medium beeswax has the unique ability to simulate the look, touch, and feel of human flesh. From earliest times, artists and craftspeople took advantage of these qualities to create lifelike reproductions of the human body as objects for devotion, commemoration, scientific study, entertainment, and art. A votive or ex-voto was an offering given in fulfillment of a vow or to ask for healing or protection. Votive offerings were being placed within places of worship, at shrines or churches, to gain favour or give thanks. They could take the form of modeled reproductions of ill body parts or organs, often the wax casts commemorated spiritual help with a particular issue – failing eyesight, fertility, arthritic limbs. By the Middle Ages Christian symbolism and the production of votive images that supported the rituals of the Christian church became so common that it created an industry. The figures, limbs, and organs that line the walls of modern Catholic churches and hang in other sacred places throughout the contemporary world, are proof that humans have long enacted their personal relationships to divinity with reference to their own fragile bodies.

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  • Votive Figure X, 2019

  • Votive Figure II, 2019

  • Votive Figure VII, 2019

  • Votive Figure XII, 2019

  • Votive Figure VIII, 2019

  • Votive Figure XX, 2020 / Votive Figure XVI, 2020

  • Votive Figure XIV, 2019 / Votive Figure IX, 2019

  • Votive Figure XI, 2019

  • Votive Figure XIII, 2019

  • Votive Figure XV, 2020

  • Votive Figure XVIII, 2020

  • Votive Figure V, 2019