Sunday, June 30, 2013


On this holiday we enjoyed seeing Venice from the top deck of a cruise ship three times.

We arrived here at the end of our first cruise from Barcelona.  Then a week later we left here on a cruise thru the Greek islands... and then came back to Venice where we've spent another three days.

The first time, our cruise ship director announced we were approaching Venice so those without balconies could get positions on the top decks to enjoy the spectacular views.... hence not everyone could get front rail locations.

When we saw this church with a huge sculpture in front of it, there was lots of speculation as to what it was.  Later we learned that this little island is called San Giorgio Maggiore and there were some significant art and sculptures on display here.  It was just across from the Piazza San Marco at the entrance to the Giudecca Canal.

Was it a man or a woman?  Why no arms?  We all had a lot more questions than answers until we did some research.

So on Sunday morning Shirley and I took a vaporetto to this island to get a closer look... and find answers to our questions.

A vaporetto is the most used form of transportation here in Venice.  It is like a water bus that can carry from 100 to 150 or more people... and stops along it's route to drop off and pick up people.

This is an 11 metre (35 foot) high inflatable version of the monumental marble work by Mark Quinn called 'Alison Lapper Pregnant' a portrait of a disabled pregnant woman, Alison Lapper.  The base is about 8 feet high and contains the motors and equipment to keep this art inflated.

Can you imagine the challenge of creating this piece of art out of vinyl... kind of like making a hot air balloon. Once one gets close you can see the seams.

The original marble version of this work was installed in London's Trafalgar Square (2005-07).  'Breathe' was the centrepiece of the London's Paralympic Games' opening ceremony 2012... and is now on display here in Venice.

To see photos of the artist with Alison Lapper and the 2005 newspaper story click on this link.

The work seems to describe the journey of an image when it becomes part of cultural discourse: something without boundaries of scale, held up by the breath of those talking about it, a visitor from the virtual world in our minds.

Held in place by blown air, 'Breathe' is one amazing piece of work which showcases the story of Alison Lapper, who, after discovering she was pregnant decided to have her child, despite the difficulties of her physical condition and the prejudices of society.

She eventually gave birth to a healthy boy.  After featuring in the 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony in London, 'Breathe' was universally acknowledged as a monument of female heroism.

Alison Lapper, a friend of Marc Quinn, was born with no arms and shortened legs due to chromosomal condition called Phocomelia. Her mother rejected her and she was brought up in a care home.  Now a recognized artist, she was awarded an MBE in 2003 and featured with her son in the BBC series 'Child of Our Time'.  (MBE is an award for the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.)

To see Mark Quinn with the original 11-foot marble sculpture that went to Trafalgar Square click here.

In a future blog post we will show more of Mark Quinn's sculptures which were on display on this small island.  Without a doubt this was one of the most inspirational sites we visited in Venice.

"A piece of art is never a finished work.  It answers a question which has been asked, and asks a new question." -Robert Engman


  1. Wow. Quite a story. I was wondering how Alison feels about a giant naked statue of her, but then I went and Googled her and saw that she posed that way herself as a new mother, so I'm betting it's not the issue for her that it might be for me!

  2. Hi Sherwin Goerlitz,
    I am the Real Alison Lapper MBE! I live in the UK on the south coast near Brighton.
    I was in Venice myself in early august to see myself! All 36ft and Im only 3ft 10! On the vaporetto over to the museum, which is a challenge in a wheelchair, the other passengers had to do a double take at me and my statue before realising that they weren't seeing double. Well they were, just a very small one!
    At one point on the Vaporetto, we thought we were going to be run down by a cruise ship. And we wondered what it looked like from up there. So thank you for that!
    Please feel free to link up with me on Facebook as Alison Lapper Mbe. You'll find more photos of the exhibition in Venice and some of my own artwork as well. It Would be nice to talk about venice. I've also written a book about my life which is available on Amazon called MY LIFE IN MY HANDS.
    Great to see the photos of Venice and look forward to chatting.
    Alison Lapper MBE
    (The name on the post is my partners as I dont have a google account!)

    1. I am honoured to hear back from the Real Alison Lapper!

      I would love to chat with you about Venice as well as about artwork. Both my wife Shirley and myself like to do art projects... watercolour, sketching and photography.

      Hopefully you might see my comment and give me your contact info.

      my email is

  3. Thank you very much & Thank you for your contact email address. Ill be in touch very soon. Do you use facebook?
    Regards Alison Lapper MBE

    1. I have a Facebook account... but my wife, Shirley looks at Facebook a lot more often them I do. We did go to your Facebook page, but there was no way we could find to be your friend or leave you a message. You must have a "special" Facebook account.

      If you were to go to Shirley's blog you will see that she has been using a header photo of the island Maggiore San Giorgio with you sculpture in front and centre.

      Check it out: ...and the Living is Easy: