Meret Oppenheim, ‘Snake Ear Cuff’, 2014, GEMS AND LADDERS

A small snake embraces the wearer’s ear, not as a passive adornment but an active creature that looks back at the viewer with glinting green eyes. Meret Oppenheim delighted in the annual carnival celebrations in Basel; she collected traditional masks and made costumes of her own, with an interest in how the wearer could be transformed. Here the person wearing the snake ear cuff may take on the sinuousness and stealth of the reptile. The snake’s narrow tail wraps around the ear, as can be seen in the illustration of 1936, a gesture that is protective yet a little menacing.

About Meret Oppenheim

A central figure in Surrealism, Meret Oppenheim painted dream narratives and impossible juxtapositions of everyday objects to explore female sexuality, identity, and exploitation. She famously posed for Man Ray’s Erotique voilée (1933), instantly becoming an object of romantic idealization to the Surrealists for her seemingly direct and spontaneous access to experiences of the dream world through her youth, charm, and openness. In her best-known works, Oppenheim painted household objects in suggestively erotic arrangements or created haunting assemblages of indeterminate origins, often transforming objects closely associated with feminine domesticity into erotic symbols. Object (1936), a fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon, became her most iconic work. Through exhibitions and activities amongst the Surrealist circle, Oppenheim was closely associated with Jean Arp, André Breton, and Max Ernst.

German-Swiss, 1913-1985, Charlottenburg, Germany