As a child growing up in Leeds Georgina Starr kept dossiers on the people she met. In 2003 Starr was commissioned to make an artwork for her hometown's art gallery (Leeds City Art Gallery) and chose to use these early dossiers as a starting point for a new work. Making a list of the twelve people from her past, she employed someone to track them down. Each were given a particular photograph and asked questions about memories associated with the image—most of the people had not seen or heard from her for more than 25 years.
BIG V appears as a series of actions and re-enactments narrated by four teenage girls loosely based on the interviews with people Starr grew up with. The work explores themes of female sexuality in relation to Catholicism, memory, half-truths, the origins of guilt and the significance of the Virgin Mary to the Catholic schoolgirl.
Photographs from 'the early dossiers', Big V, 2004
The Big V
Suffering and punishment have always served to unite the Catholic with Christ on the cross. The image of Christ dying and that of his mother, the Virgin Mary, wallpaper the Catholic child's mind. 'The Virgin' is the pop idol of the pre-pubescent Catholic girl. Alongside the posters of pop bands and teen pin-ups there stands Mary with her oversized sacred heart exposed. As a child growing up in Leeds I conversed with Mary regularly. Kneeling at a homemade altar in my bedroom I would talk to her about all aspects of my life. Every flicker of sunlight was a sign of her glorious presence, I believed she could hear and see everything and my actions were ruled by this assumption. At one point I toyed with becoming a nun.
Our perception of virginity dominated our conversations. How did an invisible spirit impregnate a woman? Who was a virgin, who wasn't? Who was pretending to be one and who would choose to stay one forever? Whether it was to condemn or condone our religion, we Catholic girls could never really escape The Big V.
Published on the occasion of the exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery in 2004