Leda and the Fork, a surrealist painting by the seldom traded but highly regarded American artist, Honore Desmond Sharrer is yet another modern painting of note in Clarke’s June auction. An audacious female figure stands beside twisted, oversized fork while exposing her nude body to nearby picnickers. The well painted yet bizarrely intriguing composition, originally sold by the Forum Gallery, will be estimated at $1,000 to $1,500.
One prevalent theme is Sharrer’s use of the female nude, as in Afternoon of the Satyr (1989) and Roman Landscape (1990). Her take on the female body is at once Classical and provocatively realistic. She paints pale and curvaceous female figures, reminiscent of Rubens, with the type of sturdy thighs that would send R. Crumb into a panic. Yet, her use of dimpled skin, provocative and awkward poses, and contrast with the other imagery in the scenes rips the figures away from a mythic or sexual context, shining a light instead on the way women are seen in society.
Many of Sharrer’s paintings of this period are slyly funny—though Sharrer wasn’t going for the cheap laugh but rather a deeper satirical commentary. Brigham notes that Melissa Wolfe, the curator of American art at the Saint Louis Museum of Art and a co-curator of the exhibition, describes Sharrer as having a “slant view.” “We don’t want to diminish her by just seeing the jokes in her work,” says Brigham. “The slant view, the absurdity, is where Sharrer drives a wedge into power and into gender inequality. That’s what the force of the work is.”
Sharrer referred to her naked, satisfyingly-sized women as ‘liberated’. It tends to be the clothed women, no matter how skimpy their clothing, who are not free, autonomous human beings.
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