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Meet the artist whose body is a temple.

Words by Myffy Rigby

You’ve probably heard of radical honesty – a term to describe telling the whole, unfiltered truth and wearing the consequences of that. Well, artist Emma Maye Gibson is about radical tenderness. Her body is a temple, and every day she worships at the altar, with the mantra ‘thank you body.’

Emma Maye is a walking, talking physical expression. The artist, pleasure activist and self-described ‘sex clown’, has performed at Sydney Opera House; Glastonbury; Fringe festivals in Edinburgh, Berlin and all around Australia; Melbourne Comedy Festival, and the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. Her latest theatrical works include Grumble Boogie, an online aerobics and dance workshop which she hosted free during the pandemic; Goddess – The Elizabeth Burton Story, and Enemies of Grooviness Eat Shit.

“To quote a mentor of mine who passed away, legendary striptease artist Elizabeth Burton, ‘I was put on this earth to remind people to be kind to themselves’"

There’s a beautiful way in which Gibson describes her body. It’s an attitude – somewhere to hold the good, the bad, the pain and ooze, tears and laughs. It’s a vessel – a place to store love energy, rage energy, hope energy and fuck energy. It is flesh machinery – a performance tool to remind people to breathe, to touch themselves, to feel joy.

“To quote a mentor of mine who passed away, legendary striptease artist Elizabeth Burton, ‘I was put on this earth to remind people to be kind to themselves’. In the last year,” says Gibson, “I have been around people that I admire talking about that radical tenderness to yourself and deep respect of the body.”

Gibson’s mother, an artist in her own right, was also a bodybuilder. “She’s always been a painter and sculptor, so it makes total sense that she made her body into a sculpture,” she says. “I grew up watching her teach, and watching her morph herself with bodybuilding. It’s quite an amazing culture.Very camp. Not only do they come out and pose, but they come out and do a dance with poses in it. It’s so strange.

One of Gibson’s performances centres around screening a video of her mother competing on stage. As her mother completes each pose, Gibson stands in front of the video and mimics it. “I’ve got to whip that one out again.”


Enjoyed this extract? The whole story will be available in glorious print, on all good bookshelves and via our store from October 6.

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Writer

Myffy Rigby

Photographer

Ellen Virgona

Sub-editor

Pru Engel

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