Sarah Lucas, Is Suicide Genetic? 1996
Where Does it all End? by Sarah Lucas, 1994-1995
Chicken Knickers by Sarah Lucas, 1997
This is an image of the artist’s lower body wearing a pair of white knickers to which a chicken has been attached, its rear orifice in roughly the position of her vulva. Lucas has been using food as substitutes for human genitalia, both male and female, since the early 1990s. One of the principal themes in her work is a confrontation with traditional female roles and identities. She explores the ambiguities in her own attitudes and those of others (men as well as women) towards sexual objectification and desire. One of the ways she does this is by making physical and literal representations of vernacular terms for bodies, focusing, in particular, on sexual body parts and their connection to foods. Sculptures such as Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab 1992 (Saatchi Collection, London) and Bitch1994 (Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam) present fried eggs and melons as breasts, kebab and kipper as labia. Au Naturel 1994 (Saatchi Collection, London) puns on the traditional still-life (‘nature morte’) with the idea of a naked couple in bed, by placing objects representing male (a cucumber and a pair of oranges) and female (two melons and a bucket) elements on an old mattress. In her photographic self-portraits Lucas has appeared with fried eggs on her breasts, with a large fish over her shoulder and eating a banana as a phallic substitute. She has said:
"I was quite a tomboy when I was growing up, I liked hanging out with a lot of boys, and I sort of got used to their way of talking about sex. And at the same time as thinking it was funny, I suppose I was a bit aware that it also applied to me, and I’ve always had those two attitudes. I did enjoy it - but at the same time I must have shuddered inwardly, I think.”
Chicken Knickers is darker and more abstracted than the earlier works. The juxtaposition of a raw plucked bird likely to be stuffed and put in the oven with a body which appears immature, if not sexually uncertain, is disturbing. This is emphasised by the formal qualities of the image: the lower half of the body has been cut off from its upper part (including most importantly face and head) and is surrounded by intense blackness which creates a deathly atmosphere. More recent works Baby 2000 and Sex Baby 2000 (both exist as a photograph and a sculpture) utilise a chicken with a pair of lemons and a t-shirt to evoke a still more sinister connection between the flesh and orifice of an oven-ready chicken and the female sex object.
Black and White Bunny #1 by Sarah Lucas, 1997
Black and White Bunny #2 by Sarah Lucas, 1997
Black and White Bunny #3 by Sarah Lucas, 1997
"Lucas exhibited these three black and white photographs as part of her installation at Sadie Coles HQ, London in 1997, entitled Bunny Gets Snookered (see Tate T07437). A series of eight ‘bunny girls’ made from stuffed tights, each wearing stockings the eight colours of snooker balls, sat on a variety of office chairs arranged around and on top of a snooker table in the gallery space. The photographs were hung on the adjacent wall, suggesting further possible readings of the sculptures. The installation as a whole provided a typical Lucas-style joking subversion of (male) objectification of the female body, as it appears in the tradition of surrealism, by rendering that object of desire undesirable and ridiculous. However, the photographs, with their formal beauty, hint at issues both more transcendent and more disturbing. The bunnies here (the three photographs seem to be of the same bunny) sit in the characteristic Lucas splay-legged pose, illuminated by sunlight coming in through a window which renders them beautiful rather than merely abject. Distanced from the limp and veiny physicality of the sculptures through the medium of black and white photography, the form Lucas has created by stuffing a pair of tights becomes more aesthetically attractive and subtly suggestive. The slapstick humour of the sculptures has been overlaid by a dreamy quality of light and almost-poetic atmosphere, with violation and abuse a dark undercurrent rather than an obvious theme.
Lucas has increasingly combined objects and elements from her sculptures with photographic representations of herself (and sometimes parts of an anonymous male body). Here the presence of the cloaked human figure (of indeterminate gender) in the background of the picture, who reveals only a portion of leg, dislocates the viewer’s imaginary connection of the sculpture with the human. By juxtaposing a real body with her sculpture which mimics a body, Lucas opens further ambiguities in the dynamics of (sexual) objectification and desire.”
— Elizabeth Manchester, August 2000 (from Tate)