Pretty flay for a white guy

Pretty flay for a white guy
Pretty flay for a white guy

Pretty flay for a white guy, 2020

Digital documentation of a waxed watercolour and graphite drawing strung up with gold thread.

Liminal, death and what remains. I explored beauty, skin and the gaze using western approaches to medicine and burial to examine the concepts of liminal or transitional space. At death, we are farewelled with a ceremony and then buried or cremated with some of us ending up in jars or on display like an écorché or in MRI slices as examples.

Even though the ancient Greeks had a crack at human dissection and saints were dismembered and stored in reliquaries, it took the eighteenth century to pop body parts in jars. And then we have Clemente Susini’s Anatomical Venus in Florence. She is a life-sized wax woman is adorned with glass eyes and human hair and can be dismembered into dozens of parts revealing a foetus curled in her womb at the end. Her purpose was to teach anatomy at a time when bodies rotted quickly and possibly had a dodgy provenance. All the while she is wearing pearls and an ecstatic look on her face. Whatever the intent, we have another way a woman can be carved and displayed.

I’m doing my best not to segue to the victims of Jack the Ripper and the traditions of écorché. Instead, I bounce to the Shroud of Turin, the alleged face of Jesus on a rag. This object gains meaning by many of us looking and hoping we are seeing the face of Jesus.
As I built the artwork, other uses for wax and Ed Gein’s preoccupations came to mind as well as the dismemberment of bodies performed by the likes of advertising.

All you can do is fix your gaze.


What you see is the digital documentation and exploration of body in its liminal state. Pretty flay for a white guy is a Spanish Anatomical Venus with her breast and pregnant belly is redrawn in graphite on Chinese rice paper. The drawing is rendered liminal again when it is soaked in wax. The drawing is no longer held in opaque paper. (The wax is a nod to Madame Tussaud and the tradition of wax death masks making the wax work a relic or trophy of skin.) Two versions are drawn and soaked in wax.

First version is surrounded by flourishes. The second version was annotated with advertising slogans from vintage Cleos e.g., “Intimate odour. When your body isn’t discrete … you should be”-Femfresh. Gold watercolour surrounds the work like a halo and her lips, tits, vulva sparkle like the Pigface song “Hips, Tits, Lips, Power”. A layer of misogyny is added when gold threads are sown in to enable the artwork to be strung up like meat. Both works were photographed on white and black velvet backgrounds.

The title “Pretty flay for a white guy” is a play on the Offspring song Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).

Respect to victims of violence referenced directly or indirectly in this work and its development.


Barnett, R., (2014) The Sick Rose or Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration, Thames & Hudson LTD, London
Ebenstein, J., (2016) The Anatomical Venus, Thames & Hudson LTD, London
Hartnell, J., (2018) Medieval Bodies: Life. Death and Art in the Middle Ages, Wellcome Collection, London
Why these anatomical models are not disgusting By Fiona Macdonald 26th May 2016
The Romantic, Macabre History of the Anatomical Venus Ian Shank Jan 29, 2018 2:35pm