Prosthetic Limbs as Art: Sophie de Oliveira Barata’s Alternative Limb Project

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Sophie de Oliveira Barata’s Alternative Limb Project applies an artistic approach to prosthetic limb design, seeking to create unique and personalized prosthetic limbs for amputees. With her degree in Special Effects Prosthetics for film and television from London Arts University and 8 years of work for prosthetic providers creating realistic limbs, de Oliveira Barata has now established her own studio working as a specialist consultant alongside prosthetists to create alternative prosthetic effects with direct input from clients. She also collaborates with other artists – designers, laser-cutters, metal, plastic, and wood workers – in order to maximize the potential for a unique prosthetic. In addition to her “surreal” and “unreal” prosthetic designs, she is also highly skilled in crafting realistic looking limbs.

The experience of losing a limb, often under intense and strenuous circumstances, can be alienating and disempowering. Through her work, de Oliveira Barata offers a creative form of empowerment, one that is both functional and fashionable.

“Generally the whole technology is moving towards trying to recapture a lifelike limb that looks realistic and also acts realistic in motion,” says de Oliveira Barata. “In this instance I’m doing the complete opposite and I think it does capture that whole childlike imagination — it’s like being a superhero with super powers.”

“It’s drawing attention to their disability in a positive way…Rather than people seeing what’s missing, it’s about what they’ve got…Having an alternative limb is about claiming control and saying ‘I’m an individual and this reflects who I am.’” (via cnn)

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  • Frances O’Brien

    I’ve seen these before and I guess I have mixed feelings because I remember a lot of comments like “OMG so pretty – if I were an amputee I’d totally have one like this”. I get it, they are beautiful and the philosophy behind them is inspiring.

    My dad is an amputee – his artificial leg is pretty basic. It’s heavy, it’s painful, it’s hard to walk with: it was $8000. I can’t even imagine how much something like this would cost. IDK whether able-bodied people remember stuff like that.

  • shellflick

    This is realistic for perhaps 2% of amputees. I am happy that this article is showing the public that there is no shame in showing the artificial leg in whatever form….Thank you for that…..!!!

  • Perry Davis

    well, she’s accomplishing her goals. She wanted people to look at the prosthetics and rather than see what is missing, they see what is there instead. I think it’s awesome. But I see where you’re coming from, it is important to keep in mind that these things can be painful and hard to use. Best wishes for your father!

  • Roseblight

    Hey :) Maybe I didn’t phrase myself very well: my dad’s prosthetic is a very difficult one mostly because it’s so cheap. It’s what we could afford? My point was more that the technologically advanced ones, and I’m assuming the beautiful ones like these, can run to $250,000.
    Aha, I wish I had that sort of money lying around for him. But most people don’t.