Sarah Lucas is an iconic artist that has picked up the self-portrait style to express aspects of her life. Many people identify with the portraits because the setups she uses are familiar. Although in a bold and somewhat daring manner, Lucas is out to start conversations in areas that many people would rather sweep under the carpet.
Sarah Lucas & her self portraits
Self Portraits is a photograph series of twelve pictures taken between 1990 and 1998. Lucas is out to uncover her on identity both as an artist and as a woman. Since the photos have been taken over time, viewers can pick up aspects that indicate aging, which is all part of the art. Interestingly, Lucas does not just pose for the photos; her appearance is androgynous, her poses masculine, and none is without a visual pun. The puns are deliberately used to challenge existing sexual and gender stereotypes while at the same time, allowing the viewer to see the artist’s vulnerability.
Sarah Lucas – Self Portraits, 1990-1998: (1) Eating a Banana, 1990 (2) Divine, 1991 (3) Self Portrait with Mug of Tea, 1993 (4) Self Portrait with Knickers, 1994 (5) Self Portrait with Fried Eggs, 1996 (6) Human Toilet II, 1996 (7) Fighting Fire with Fire, 1996 (8) Self Portrait with Skull, 1997 (9) Got a Salmon On #3, 1997 (10) Summer, 1998 (11) Smoking, 1998 (12) Human Toilet Revisited, 1998
Video: Interview with Sarah Lucas
‘Eating a Banana’
The first portrait that Lucas ever made was in 1990, Eating a Banana and the last in the series was taken in 1998, titled, Human Toilet. Since the 1990s while still a student at the Goldsmiths College, Lucas has embraced portraits as an important element of self-expression. If it were not for the way in which Eating a Banana transformed the artist’s appearance by emphasizing her masculinity, she probably would not have gone along with this series. The portrait suddenly bore a new strength, and that is why she strikes a masculine pose in many of her pictures. If you are unable to pick up defiant femininity through the projections of macho and female, tough and abject from the twelve portraits in this Self Portraits series, you probably are not looking at the works of Sarah Lucas.
Different self portraits
Have you noticed how food draws your attention to Lucas’s portraits? Well, that was probably her intention. In the 1996 Self Portrait with Fried Eggs, Lucas sits on a simple chair with both her arms resting on the seat’s armrests – more likely what a man would do in a photo shoot as opposed to a woman. Wearing visibly old jeans and a pair of heavy-looking shoes, her legs are wide apart but firmly planted. Are those fried eggs in the position of her breasts? They have been obviously used as a depiction of her sexuality but also to applaud breast milk for its role as nutritious food. A self-portrait that highlights female sexuality is the 1997 Got a Salmon On #3 where Lucas takes a picture with a public toilet in the background. There is a huge salmon that rests on her shoulder and whose body extends to slightly past her waist. Her intention is to make a connotation about female erection.
For someone who is encountering Self Portraits for the first time, the images could be uncomfortable, but they still remain real and make powerful yet humorous statements about gender roles and finding yourself.
All images: Sarah Lucas/gladstonegallery.com unless otherwise noted.