Erotic and sexual art in America is coming
out of the closet. Well known erotic artists who lived in the underground
for years are now finally receiving the respect and recognition they
have worked so hard for with exhibitions such as the Seattle Erotic
Art Festival and The Traveling Erotic Art Show. Galleries
and museums solely dedicated to sexually explicit art are also popping
up across the country such as The World Erotic Art Museum in Miami,
Museum of Sex in New York City, The Erotic Art Museum in Hollywood and
the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas.
Why the sudden burst of popularity in erotic art? Why is the
puritanical, right-wing-conservative US of A finally ready to show a
little skin? The country that has declared a war on porn and lived in
the sex-negative closet for so long is now admitting to an appreciation
of and validity in artistic exploration of what is sexual in nature
beyond breeding in order to have someone to keep inside their white
Are we now ready for erotic art or are the artists working
with sexually explicit and erotic images just pushing the envelope with
more vigor and determination than ever? Maybe it is due to the sexually
repressed conditions of our country and the fundamental war on our freedom
of expression that has lead to the organization of safe havens in which
sexually-explicit artists are put on a pedestal to be respected and
celebrated. Regardless of why—it is happening. Now more
than ever there is a heightened sense of awareness of sex and sexual
Why are we drawn to sexual imagery? Stripped
naked these objects of the artist's affection represent something
vulnerable and exposed. Sexual imagery captures a person or persons
in the throws of passion—lost in pleasure and sensation—touch sight,
smell and taste all heightened. These images represent the embodiment
of both life and art.
The Traveling Erotic Art Show is a nationally touring
exhibit of 11 visual artists who are exposing themselves to our great country.
The touring exhibit includes photography,
installation, performance art, sound, and video by such artists as Barbara
Nitke, Midori, Steve Diet Goedde, Dave Naz, and Charles Gatewood. The
art work pushes and explores different aspects of eroticism.
For example, Steve Diet Goedde and James
Mogul both explore a similar theme of female objectification with large
prints of faceless women, focusing in on body parts such as legs, torso,
heels, or bottom. One print of Steve Diet Goedde's shows a woman's
face blurred out of focus to the point in which it is unrecognizable.
Our gaze falls to her corset and her breasts. This photographic beheading
of women erases their identity and fetishizes their fragmented bodies.
The lens diverts the viewer's eyes from any connection with the subject
as a person and offers instead a cutlet of the human form fit for consumption,
very much in the same manner in which American's have distanced themselves
from the meat they consume. Just as the hamburger and the cow are no
longer related in our eyes, so too are these stockinged legs and the
woman who wears them. But my mind wonders what came before this moment—what
is the context of these shots? Was this woman, whose legs are jutting
out from around the corner of the wall, pushed to the ground? Was this
woman ordered into the corner to await pleasure or punishment? Can a
woman erase her own identity until she no longer recognizes the face
that bounces back at her from the mirror? These photographs leave blanks,
untold stories, a sense of hidden identity that questions the way in
which we identify ourselves and others.
Barbara Nitke comes at her work from
the ultimate voyeur's perspective. Her camera captures the raw and
vulnerable moments in BDSM scenes, from the eyes of the woman in the
corner who likes to watch. Her work is beautiful and intimate. She exposes
that intimacy onto large format silver gelatin prints so that the world
might have a window into true vulnerability.
World famous fetish photographer, Charles
Gatewood, was not so subtle in his approach. His blatantly unsophisticated
and humorous collaged mixed media pieces include photographs of him
receiving oral sex from a woman, cut and pasted next to a half-eaten
hot dog. His grossly obvious approaches at capturing the erotic have
the honesty and pungency of cheap sex. Something about this new collage
work of Gatewood's recalls my senses of raw meat and cum stained sheets.
I can smell the heat coming off the work. His work is unapologetic and
straightforward in true Bukowskian fashion. I always look forward to
seeing what buttons Gatewood will push next.
Julie Simone, who is best known for her
fetish and bondage productions (both as a performer and director) shows
that she is much more than a model in this exhibit. She has several
photographs on display all dealing with masculinity. Her three photographs
on display showcase men in compromising and emasculating positions,
in which their male power and privilege have been taken away.
Other works include video of artist and
TEAS exhibit curator, Madison Young, tweezing her pubic hair in
a piece called Pubic Display of Affection. Also by Young is a
sound piece involving a conversation with her mother, a cacophony of
bird noises and a photo of a woman bound and weighted to the bottom
of a swimming pool. Her work explores the appropriation of art into
pornographic contexts and what is private vs. public.
As a whole, the exhibition challenged
the many ideas of eroticism, confronting it from feminist, fetishist
and objectifying view points. The show has drawn out such performing
artists to participate as Twincest (www.twincest.net) and Lochai (who
is also an exhibiting visual artist for the show). It seems that these
performances and visual displays are growing in popularity rapidly.
Maybe we are finally ready to expose a little skin and delve into what
that does to us and our environment physically, economically, socially,
You can find
out more about it at www.travelingeroticartshow.com.
Article by Tina Butcher.