Arts: My mother is beautiful at 66, artist tells world

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An artist yesterday displayed posters of her mother dressed only in underwear. David Lister, Arts News Editor, reports on a shock art exhibition designed to highlight ageism.

It is a novel and aesthetic way of helping the aged. And it keeps it in the family.

An artist yesterday claimed that she was forcing people to confront ageism after placing five 6m by 3m poster hoardings featuring her 66-year-old mother in her underwear outside a busy Tube station.

Melanie Manchot said the images were "quite shocking" to London commuters at first. "You can see them taking a second glance," she said. The 31- year-old said her campaign is aimed at making people realise how artificial the stereotypical image of "near-naked busty blondes or super-slim 12- year-old-looking models" really is.

The artist, who is German but lives with her partner and baby daughter in Waterloo, south London, said: "The common view of women is that they are eternally young and beautiful. The terrible thing is that once you get beyond a certain age you are invisible - the way we are now is so prejudiced against older people, and so narrow-minded.

"My mother is featured in five different poses. She looks totally natural and she is proud to be who she is. The images are beautiful and I hope everyone can see that."

Ms Manchot's mother, Margaret, said she was happy to help her daughter get the message across. "I believe in her cause but I'm glad I live in Germany so nobody will recognise my pictures."

Ms Manchot has been studying the representation of women through her art for several years and was driven to this display by the constant negative imagery of older people. The giant images outside South Kensington station in west London, are designed like an advertisement with a picture on one side and text on the other side.

The script on the posters tells the public that only five minutes walk away at the Blue Gallery, 93 Walton Street, there is a full exhibition of Ms Manchot's work - and "it includes a full-frontal picture of my mother as well".

Anne Peck, of the Association of Greater London Older Women, welcomed the posters. She said: "I hope they help to make everybody see that there is benefit and beauty at all ages. Many consider unwrinkled bodies to be more beautiful than wrinkled bodies - in fact there is far more character and expression in wrinkles."

And Robert Stansfield, spokesman for pressure group Pensioners Voice, said: "Everything we see and read about is focused on people of below a certain age. Even Tony Blair is guilty with his `Education, education, education', `Welfare to Work', and `Young Britain', statements ... A community cannot work successfully if there is not respect for all ages."

A spokesperson for the charity Age Concern England said: "We are constantly campaigning against negative ageist stereotypes. We welcome and commend any activities that promote positive images of older people in our youth- obsessed society."