Aimee and The
Cremaster Cycle

Aimee Mullins and Matthew Barney in The Cremaster Cycle.
Aimee Mullins and Matthew Barney in The Cremaster Cycle.

By Irish America Staff
August / September 2003

The Matthew Barney Exhibition’s Irish links.


We are used to Aimee Mullins turning up in unexpected places – striding down a London catwalk wearing a pair of hand-carved wooden prosthetics designed by Alexander McQueen, but her latest role in Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle has some tongues wagging. Aimee appears as several characters, including a naked cheetah lady, in Barney’s exhibition, which turned the Guggenheim Museum in New York into a multiplex through June 11. Described as everything from “Mind-blowing” to “Weird” Cremaster showcases the San Francisco-born artist’s affinity for architecture, sex and Celtic mythology, and centers on the conflicts involved in prenatal stages of reproduction (The Cremaster is named after the muscle that serves to draw up the testes and control testicular contractions). New York Times’ chief art critic Michael Kimmelman wrote of Barney: “Hands down, he is, at just shy of 36, the most compellingly, richly imaginative artist to emerge in years. Cremaster … gives us an inspired benchmark of ambition, scope, and forthright provocation for art in the new century.”

The Guggenheim exhibition consisted of five films, a formidable body of related sculpture (including a bar modeled after the horseshoe bar in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin) and hundred of photographs and drawings, which helped Barney incorporate Celtic mythology into his stylized imagery.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, her appearance in The Cremaster Cycle is just the latest step up the ladder of fame for Aimee.

Aimee’s legs were amputated at the age of one, but with the help of the most advanced artificial legs, she has set world records in running the 100-meter, 200-meter dash and the long jump at the Paralympics. Irish America featured Aimee in a 1998 cover story; since then she has gone on to build a success in modeling and a film career, and People magazine named her one of the “50 Most Beautiful People.”

One wonders about the chances of The Cremaster Cycle making it to County Clare, home of Aimee’s Irish-born father. ♦

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Back row, left.   Evelyn (born 1914), Anne (1913), Bridie (1908), Michael (1911), Mary (1905) Marguerite (1909), John (1916). Front row, left: Frank (1918), Michael O’Donnell (father), Leila (1925), Patrick (1924), Genevieve (1923), Margaret (Doogan) O’Donnell (mother), Philip (1920).
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