Sarah Lucas: Au Natural
The Hammer Musuem’s senior curator, Anne Ellegood chose Self Portrait with Fried Eggs to headline their exhibit, Sarah Lucas: Au Natural. This self-portrait of the artist is raw and hard, unlike the eggs over easy propped on each of Ms. Lucas’s breasts. The verbiage Ms. Ellegood has chosen to introduce the exhibit: “sexuality, erotic, stockings and desire”, mirror Ms. Lucas’s work. (The Hammer Museum, 2019). They’re titillating. The photograph, combined with the words set the tone, this exhibit may require parental guidance.
Ms. Lucas has been part of the British art scene since the 1960’s. Her sculptures, self-portraits and performance art work have traveled the world and leave a lasting impression. Many of her art pieces are re-purposed from discarded materials like: plastic buckets, wire garden chairs, wash tub basins and stockings. (The Guardian, 2011).
Sarah Lucas’s closed toe Birkenstocks sit neatly under her chair. Her petite frame sits with ease in a lotus position, revealing wiggling toes to the audience and interviewer, Maggie Nelson. (Maggie Nelson interview, 2019). Her attire is simple and carefree: green plaid button down shirt untucked with worn camouflage cropped pants. Now in her 60’s her short silver mane appears opaque, allowing you to see a flawless pale scalp. As her raspy sultry voice unfurls you begin to notice other qualities; luminous skin blanks chiseled cheekbones that rise when she smiles, exposing a gap toothed grin topped with a pair of precocious green eyes. There isn’t a smudge of makeup on Sarah Lucas, nor is she ornamented with a drop of jewels. The artist mirrors the exhibit. She is natural.
Ms. Ellegood states clearly to viewers the exhibition’s intentions, “The exhibition addresses the ways in which Lucas’s works engage with crucial debates about gender and power–with a particular attentiveness to the legacy of surrealism—from her clever modifications to everyday objects to her exploration of sexual ambiguity and the tension between the mundanely familiar and the disorientingly strange.” (The Hammer Museum, 2019).
The self-portrait, Chicken Knickers is an example of how Ms. Lucas uses, “mundanely familiar and the disorientingly strange.” This photograph shows the artist’s lower body with a plucked carcass of a raw chicken attached. The chicken’s body has been positioned so the rear orifice is where the female’s vagina would be. To add to the dramatic image, Lucas has a massive sculpture of an erect penis pointing right in front of the orifice…look to the left and you’ll see Jesus nailed to the cross. It’s all surreal. Like so many of Lucas’s works, the image, along with the sculptures positioning stir an array of emotions. The work of Sarah Lucas is disturbing, bizarre, comical, erotic, mocking and culminates in a lasting impression that not unlike the artist, is difficult to shake.
Figure 1. Lucas, Sarah. Self Portrait with Fried Eggs. 1996. Work on Paper. In Storage.
Guardian, The. “Sarah Lucas’s Bed at the St. John Hotel.” YouTube, YouTube, 17 Oct. 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlhej87xcWY.
Museum, Hammer. “Maggie Nelson & Sarah Lucas.” YouTube, YouTube, 10 June 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjTXGwnn3mo.