Sacrifice of the Watermelon Virgin or Shirt Off Her Back [Barkley L. Hendricks]

Emily Browne

Contributor

Sacrifice of the Watermelon Virgin or Shirt Off Her Back was inspired by a woman that Barkley L. Hendricks encountered in a club.

He asked if he could see her shirt more closely, to which she very naturally replied by taking her shirt off and giving it to him. How’s that for the perfect combination of generosity and high self-esteem? Props to that girl gone wild, wherever she may be.

This painting was part of an exhibition called, “Dark Humor: African American Art from the University Museums,” that “present[ed] works that employ subversive humor to question cultural and racial stereotypes.” The term “dark humor,” which, fun fact was coined by the artist André Breton, perfectly fits this painting. Hendricks is making fun of the stereotype that Black people love watermelon and sex by depicting some watermelon stilettos that are about to be devoured by a tongue-out, fanged mouth on the right side of the painting, which contributes infinitely to the foot fetish-y vibe of the painting.

This painting is a deviation from Hendricks’ usual artistic style, made up of portraits of the men and women, family, friends and sometimes complete strangers that had touched his life. According to Hendricks, these portraits have no political agenda but Shirt Off Her Back is a little different. Instead of delicately beating around the racism bush, Shirt Off Her Back tackles it head on. Or rather, feet first.