food in the arts



SARAH LUCAS/ ARTISTS 1900-onwards/ MAIN ART film and food
born 1962

literature and food

music and food

photography and food
 Assuming Positions -

Sarah Lucas -

Sarah Lucas (Tate Modern Artists)-

from Self-Portraits 1990-1998  -  Summer 1998
Lucas's group of twelve photographic self portraits have been reproduced digitally as Iris prints in an edition of one hundred and fifty. They range from her first photographic self portrait, Eating a Banana 1990  to the more recent Human Toilet Revisited 1998, which also exists in the Tate collection as a c-type print. Photographic self portraits have been an important element of Lucas's work since the early 1990s. The seminal Eating a Banana changed Lucas's perception of her 'masculine' appearance from being a disadvantage to being something she could use in her art. 'I suddenly could see the strength of the masculinity about it - the usefulness of it to the subject struck me at that point, and since then I've used that'. The resulting confrontational self portrait photographs, made throughout the 1990s, complement her sculptural and installation work. Through them she presents an identity which challenges stereotypical representations of gender and sexuality. Posing simultaneously as tough and abject, macho but female, she creates an image of defiant femininity.

Two of Lucas's early collages which post-date Eating a Banana, Divine 1991 and Self Portrait with Mug of Tea 1993, have been included in the group. In these two images, as in the later Self Portrait with Fried Eggs 1996, Lucas appears in the macho pose she has claimed as her own. Clad in old jeans and heavy footwear, she sits with her legs wide apart and her feet planted firmly on the ground. Androgynous t-shirts and leather jackets feature in many of the images. In Self Portrait with Knickers 1994 she stands, hands on her hips, her dark-coloured 'hard-chick' clothing contrasting with the white underwear strung up on a washing line behind her. In all these images her gaze back at the viewer is direct and uncompromising. Food representing or standing in for sexual body parts is a common theme in Lucas's work, mainly employed to reveal and subvert degrading objectification of the body in vernacular language. Fried eggs feature as breasts in sculptural installations and cover Lucas's own breasts in her Self Portrait with Fried Eggs. In Got a Salmon On #3 1997 Lucas stands outside a public toilet, a huge salmon resting from her shoulder to below her waist, a pun on the idea of a female erection. Summer 1998 portrays Lucas grimacing as she is sprayed with frothing beer. Like Eating a Banana and Lucas's film, Sausage Film 1990, it satirises traditional female roles in pornography. These images present a female artist of masculine appearance as an object for male desire.

Elizabeth Manchester


 In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida: Angus Fairhurst,... -











Chicken Knickers  1997             Sarah Lucas

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 Bitch 1994 (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.
(Quoted by Barber, p.16.)

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.

Further reading:
Lynn Barber, 'Drag Queen', Observer Magazine, London, 30 January 2000, pp.10-16
Art from the UK, Sammlung Goetz, Munich 1997, pp.130-6
Sarah Lucas, exhibition catalogue, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam 1996

Elizabeth Manchester
August 2000