Artist Spotlight: Surrealist Meret Oppenheim

Artist Spotlight: Surrealist Meret Oppenheim

How she transformed the everyday world into the strange.

Meret Oppenheim (1913-1985) was a Surrealist artist who transcended numerous barriers to reach her acclaimed status. Transforming everyday household items into the erotic and bizarre. Seeking to redefine the domestic life of a woman, she approached art with dreaminess, feminism, fetishism, aggression, and dejectedness. Motifs in Oppenheim's work are connected to food, sex, death, cannibalism, and bondage. Her work can get a reaction out of just about anybody.

Losing interest in her native Switzerland, at the tender age of 18 she took to Paris like many aspiring artists did. That was an unparalleled art scene, rich with opportunities and a boundless collection of minds. She would drop out of at the Paris Académie de la Grande Chaumière to advance her career outside the realms of a classroom. Networking was everything in this period. Befriending artists twice her age, she found good company with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Hans Arp and Dora Maar.

Rather than display as a solo artist, it was a near necessity to join an established group for a larger pull. The Surrealist group was male only, but Oppenheim's talent and charm would bend the rule in her favor. She would repay them by being a muse and model for their works.

A major artwork features her as the model. Naked with a sensual, commanding pose in Man Ray's photo Erotique Voilée (1933), Oppenheim is inviting the male gaze. Published in the magazine Minotaure, scandal followed and put her on the map as a name to know.

Oppenheim looked to Erotique Voile without any objection, but unease surfaced when it came to having that included in her body of work. Despite entering on the premises of displaying her art, Oppenheim found herself in a role well-known to women: on the other side of a canvas.

Her reputation and vision would be wrapped in a sexualized lust for her by news media and curators alike that she used to her advantage but struggled to balance with her own career. An artistic breakthrough would come, thanks to the bronze high relief sculpture Giacometti's Ear (1933). It was made at the heed of Giacometti, who had encouraged her to make an artwork of him.

Fine art and fashion were seen as mutually exclusive. Oppenheim helped to shatter the barrier. Working for the 1936 Winter collection of the luxury clothier Elsa Schiaparelli, Oppenheim designed gloves. Polished nails, bones, and claws were among the take to each pair. With grey goatskin, she created the illusion of veins, turning the human body inside out and reversing the usage of gloves to conceal the body. Boundary-pushing, its sleek look was an immediate hit. The duo would team up again, with Oppenheim finding more work creating fur-covered pieces.

Even a meet up at a Paris cafe could turn into wonder works, especially in the company of Picasso and Maar. Picasso took interest in Oppenheim's fur-covered bracelet before making a quip comment that anything could be covered in fur. Brief, but impactful to Oppenheim who viewed the world with openness and imagination.

After being invited to participate in the Surrealist's first object displays, Oppenheim purchased a teacup, saucer, and spoon from a department store. She then covered them with Chinese gazelle fur. Entitled Le Déjeuner en fourrure or Object (1936), this would be her entry.

Everyday objects people mostly do not devote notice to, Oppenheim primed as her newest canvas. It draws notice to what they mean in the context of women. Its bizarreness grants a second look and new function. Making the civilized world look back on the primitive and animalistic, Object rejects the holder traditionally getting a taste. Anchored to this piece are interpretations of patriarchy.

Oppenheim would become the first woman featured in The Museum of Modern Art thanks to Object. Coined First Lady of MoMA, she reached the heights of her mentor Marcel Duchamp. Alfred Barr ensured Object had a starring role in the major 1936-37 show "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism." Its coarse coat has remained a source of reference to modern art's timeline and Oppenheim's best-known work made at just 22 years old.

A creative crisis would shake her the following year, which art critics have tied to the hastened amassed fame she struggled to contend and surpass. It would not be until 1954 when she resumed work in the costume, jewelry and furniture sectors. From then on to her passing in 1985, Oppenheim continued to make her conceptualization tangible.

Today, she has made her mark and been subject to numerous spin-offs, discussions, and curations. Recalling her ventures as a female artist after years of personal crises and creative roadblocks, she stated in 1975, “Freedom is not given to you, you have to seize it.”

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To the guy that shot my brother...


To the guy that shot my brother,

On January 9, 2019 my families entire life changed with one phone call. The phone call that my little brother had been shot in the face, no other details. We didn't need any other details. The woman on the phone who called us in full panic told us where he was so we went, as soon as possible. I don't think it helped that not even 10 min prior I talked to Zach on the phone.. kind of irritated with him, and the ONE TIME I didn't say 'I love you' as we hung up. Could've been the last time we ever spoke.. I remember pulling up to the hospital thinking 'this can't be real' 'it's not our Zach' 'this is just a dream Sarah, WAKE UP' I'd close my eyes really tight just to open them, I was still in the hospital emergency parking lot. I could still hear the ambulance sirens coming. It was all real.

The day our life's changed was definitely a test of faith. A test of how strong we were, as a family. I sat in that waiting room ready to see the damage that has been done to my sweet baby brother. Because at that point we had no idea how lucky he got. That glimpse of seeing Zach will haunt me forever. How helpless I felt in that exact moment frequently wakes me up from these horrific dreams I've been having ever since that day. That is a moment burned into my me and families brain forever.

You always hear about these things in the movies or on the news, a house being shot up, someone shooting another innocent person, not to care if they died on your watch. But we found ourselves on the news.. We have been confined to the hospital since that day. Running on barely any sleep, taking shifts of sleep so we don't make ourselves sick taking care of Zach. Watching him suffer. Undergoing surgeries, to repair the damage you did.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little something about the man you shot.

Zachary Keith Wright. A blonde hair blue eyed boy. Who could potentially be the most annoying human on the planet (possibly coming from his sister). A man who loves his God first, loves his family second. Perfect by no means, but almost perfect to me. A 19 year old who was to graduate high school this month. After graduation he was prepping to leave for Marine boot camp in the summer.. being in the military has been Zach's dream since he could talk. Literally. Running around, playing war with underwear on our heads, and finger guns. Some would say we looked like natural born assassins.. growing up he has been a country boy. Let me tell ya country to the core. He loves this country like he loves his family. He believes in helping people, taking charge in what's right, and never leaving a brother behind. He's lived by that his whole life. Until now....

The day you shot him. The day not only did you change my brothers life, you changed his families life too. The day you almost ripped my brother out of this world... for what? A misunderstanding? Because you've let something take ahold of your life that you can't let go you're willing to kill someone innocent over? Luckily for him, his guardian angels were protecting him in your time of cowardice. There were 3 times that day he should've died, the time you shot him, the time you tried to shoot him again as he stared you directly in the face, (even tho he couldn't talk I know you could read his eyes, and he still intimidated you. That's why you tried to pull the trigger again) and the time he was running out of the house. But he lived. A man who was shot in the face, didn't lay there helpless, didn't scream in agony. That MAN walked to the neighbors to get help. Why? Because he's a MAN, and because he's on this earth for a reason.

It's gonna sound a little strange not only to you, but the audience who is reading this. I must say thank you. Even in this situation, this was the best outcome we could get. He gets to live. He will make a full recovery. He will graduate. And he will go off into the Marines. You united my family together. Closer than ever. Thank you. You tested our faith and brought us closer to our God. Thank you. Because of your moment of weakness, you showed us what prayer could do. Heal anything. Thank you. This was a bump in the road, and a helluva way to kick off our year of 2019. But here we are.. all laying in the hospital. I'm looking around as mom is sleeping in her recliner chair exhasted but still here, Zach his awake playing his xbox all hooked up to machines, fighting to heal and get better. And of course I'm writing this letter to you.

See you in trial,

From the girl whose brother you shot.

'Fight the good fight' - 1 Tim 6:12 🤟🏼💙

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