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 explores themes of female sexuality in relation to Catholicism, memory and the significance of the Virgin Mary to the Catholic schoolgirl.
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 weeping, wallpaper the Catholic child's mind. 'The Virgin' is the pop idol of the pre-pubescent Catholic girl. Alongside the posters of bands and teen pin-ups, there stands Mary with her sacred heart exposed. As a child growing up in Leeds I conversed regularly with Mary. 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 sometimes 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 young woman? Which of were virgins, and which were not—and who would 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