20 April to 9 May
Graphic Studio Gallery is delighted to present, ‘Wilgefortis’, an exhibition of new work by Niamh McGuinne, presented alongside a selection of Graphic Studio editions by Alice Maher.
The portrayal of hair is a fascinating theme; it is an interesting connector between the inner and outer selves; it has been used as a symbol of attractiveness and desire. Not only viewed as a symbol of idealised femininity, it can also represent the un-sanitised reality of strong female identity often supplemented with mythical and fairy tale references. In some cultures hair itself is imbued with a quasi-religious significance.
In the 14th century a religious ‘cult’ surrounding the veneration of female bearded saints surfaced in medieval Europe. The main protagonist was known as St. Wilgefortis of Portugal possibly translating as ‘strong virgin’ or ‘holy face’. The legend recounts the story of a Catholic girl of nobility whose father had promised her marriage to a pagan. To avoid the marriage she prayed that she would become ugly and ‘miraculously’ grew a beard. Refusal to eat as a form of protest is one of the few controls one has over one’s body. The body, as a consequence, stimulates the growth of lanugo or downy hair all over as it attempts to protect itself from deprivation. Anorexia mirabilis is a condition which refers almost exclusively to women of the Middle Ages who would starve themselves in the name of God. The miracle of St. Wilgefortis might be explained by this phenomenon and in 1969 her status of sainthood was revoked.