I'm facing some interesting ... walls, questions, not sure what to think thoughts developing as I paint my newest art porn collection so I thought I'd talk about that today. (it's lengthy so grab some time)
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
I was surprised and saddened to learn that one of the more well known art galleries for erotic art in the US that I won't name believes that the posh buzz word of "provocateur" is the language necessary to sell erotic art. I can understand this view but disappointing is this idea that meanings people place on words hurt in their abstraction, in their diverse forms and in their interpretive meanings, often times based on trigger factors from the past. Words are not actual knives or tools of pain; it is the memory that's the pain, and in pain I include shame. I can sink into the opposite view but it is important to accept that words are sounds and meanings are interpretive and pain from those is a human construct of understanding based on the depth of knowledge. In other words, process and let it go.
My brain is digging deeper into the areas of this language semantics: "why do we need this elegant safe language?" and by giving it, "does this really aid the audience who buys it?” or even better, “does it aid any adult at all?” I don't know. I am okay with the word and idea of porn as I don't find it offensive and what I do find offensive about it I simply tune out, don't watch and avoid. It’s pretty simple stuff. There's plenty of porn I find gross and yet there's plenty of porn I find hot and while I do believe there should be a standard ethic involved in creating porn (and there is), that in itself is a key problem because your sense of morality might not match up with mine. Ethics on the porn dilemma is only going to get more complex as technology integrates itself into our lives so I'm bringing it back down into its simplicity: man, woman, sex. I represent the amino acids here not the porn party.
As I paint my representations of erotica and porn-as-art, the largest question that keeps hitting me is if a successful provocative art gallery feels the need to disassociate from the term "porn" or even "erotic", then who is left to challenge the representations of such words without the stigmas and typical shame attached to them; namely, the shame of venturing into the verbiage and visual sensations of subjective filth and fleshy corruption called pornography and then selling it as something more than? If no one challenges that shame then the porn industry is left to do it and while that angle is fine and expected, it's a yawn for impact. Of course the porn industry is going to push for their sense of belonging – just like the food science industry pushes their agenda to feed the world garbage and then sleeps with the pharmaceutical companies for good relations. The trust factor is small.
SEX WITH ITS MESSY HUNGER
I had a conversation with someone who simply stated that most people probably just didn't like sex; they wanted to just get off and go on to the next thing on their list. I thought, perhaps to eliminate the "Sex with its messy hunger" dealings (to credit Vanessa Daou’s "Zippless" lyrics for the song “Becoming a Nun”, which seems so appropriate here). Sex is in fact messy and it is hungry but so is cooking. At is end, we should be satisfied and nourished. We can and should indulge in the messy hunger, the peacock struts and the aftermath responsibly and accept the effort, time and attention rewards take. This is why porn's subjectivity must be examined not dismissed: it leads to understanding eroticism in more depth.
When we think of adults and the adult world, why is sex so messy that people want to ban others from looking at it? Isn't that immature? Yes it is and it's truly about the reasoning I mentioned earlier, triggers to memory associated discomforts and fears. I do concede the new generation may fall into a more complex mix of porn, sex, love, relations confusion but that avenue leads into a rabbit hole. Let's keep it simpler and then complicate. The medium for the message must be outside the pornographic and family-values arenas - which is exactly why art is its best platform.
As I work on painting the new art collection - which is pretty damn hot btw - I've thought okay fine, let me eliminate the messiness of this word "porn" and run with this provocateur view, elevate porn into a similar context as others and follow the leader and give the audience what they apparently need, which seems to be a robe onto this word porn. Then I realize, no. This doesn't feel authentic. Art needn't be censored, not its message nor its genre label.
All of this isn’t even about the porn itself as though I’m acting as an artist activist in favor of it. Porn will never cease so it’s a useless argument and waste of time. What I’m in favor of is being myself and my pie slice is sexual and erotic. Being of this nature often places judgmental words onto women like me so perhaps this is why I don't attach to words; but why is a female celebrating and accepting her sexuality an automatic association with negative terms given to loose women? Sexual and loose is the difference. One describes what she is and the other defines how she gives. Let us not confuse these two different factors and mush them into the same pie.
I’m a mom, a friend, a daughter and only after all of those and other roles I get to be a woman. Family and most other people pretty much kill the sexual and erotic self - my essence of womanhood's definition - so it is such a small sliver of life really, that I want to expand it outward when I can. Art allows a more free expression and it keeps within moral boundaries; it is free and it is safe. So essentially, I’m acting as a beacon to “Be Thyself", a woman (and artist) and not what you need me to be, which is what I only became because of you. ... so existentialist, so Sartre, so "the look", so the core.
GIFTS & MANIPULATIONS
I love sex and I find it unfortunate for those who don't - really, what a loss - because experiencing sexuality without all the baggage is a gift. I feel extremely lucky and grateful in this respect and I'm not letting that go. This said, everyone is different yet people often shame the wrong aspect of sexuality. They shame the act – an act of basically pleasure and procreation, both truly magnificent things – and they shame those who perform such acts perhaps for pleasure itself, and certainly when outside the context of some vow that was created by the people who created them. Mostly though, I think truly what is happening is they are shaming themselves and projecting it out onto others.
The gift of sex shouldn't be disrespected or abused but viewing or enjoying porn doesn't abuse and disrespect in and of itself; it the way in which the person interacts with the people after the porn that might qualify as disrespectful or abusive. But, isn't this really the person interacting with himself? This means the problem isn't porn, it's himself. Certainly some forms of porn representation DO in fact disrespect and abuse. I get this. I don’t like it but one bad apple doesn’t ruin the entire basket if you truly examine it so to go anti-porn because of a negative visual is immature. There are marriages that abuse and disrespect. I don't see anyone trying to ban marriage to avoid a potential problem with it. Instead we capitalize on it – as porn - and now there's a huge wedding industry making billions off of other people's hope for true love and sexual respect. Ha. Give the marriage a decade and some kids and join the club of reality. Society elevates love to a highest standard via monogamy and no pornography and expects happily ever after. The only people truly making out on the deal are lawyers and the porn industry. It’s a self-feeding animal, a friggin’ fabulously intelligent and capitalistic round-a-bout and most of us fall into it like sprinkled sugar dust on a doughnut hole.
MORE, MORE, MORE
So, why do we need to tame the meanings of what is essentially meant to be wild and free so that it can become what it is as needed? When we associate meaning onto to vocabulary, onto intangible forms that are more abstract than clear, subjective, complex and diverse, without deeper inquiry or respect into its existence in the first place, we basically bottle up air and then let it out slowly as we can manage it and the result becomes an entire population starved from oxygen. Sexuality is that important to life and for me, it's my breath. But too, sexuality is the physical umbrella. It's the mental eroticism with the flesh that creates the more. Physical sex gets boring and so most people when they don't venture deeper into porn, they don't actually have opportunity to realize their full erotic self on the level they would without it. Or perhaps, in fairness, those with it too much need to tone it down to discover an erotic self without it. Ultimately however, the point is to have access to the choice based on where you sit in your seat of consciousness. You've got to know your dark sides as well as your light sides to truly understand the bigger picture. Sexuality is not flat; it is a sphere and pornography gives us insight into its dimension, into our human depth.
When I worked on painting Art Porn last year the experience was very different than my current one; it was less thought out, more spontaneous and sensuous and flowing and "dangerous". It was new and in that, as all new experiences, it piqued an interest in a multitude of ways but in hindsight it was only the stepping stone. When others say the more you look at porn the more desensitized you become - well, there's truth there. You do loose a certain thrill to it because something novel became something ordinary - WHICH IS WHY typically most men desire more "new" porn on a regular basis. It's a need, this newness, this search for something more even if it's not more perversion as often claimed to scare people but just MORE in and of itself because more is what the Human Being is wired for. Don't get greedy though.
We all want more and with it, to better ourselves (or circumstances) and sometimes we want more for those around us. Here I think humanity is equal. It is our biological wiring to desire more and this, if taken into action, allows us to grow and learn and contribute to the world at large in our own butterfly effect way. What separates our equality here is that some follow through and others don't, and some grow healthy while others become weeds and try to take over the terrain. Annoying kind, aren't they?
GROWING THE SEXUAL SELF
With sexuality though, we don't typically allow for more, for growth or a betterment as we do in say, our academic or skill capabilities but I think this is a mistake because sexuality is a part of an inner primal self, an essence within, and when not nurtured, it starves and limits its nourishment which can potentially alter the lens of personal views on sex (and porn), often simply shamed for existing outside of its "rightful" purpose or committed vow. We allow the celebration of procreation and "til death do us part" commitment and then we tolerate the quiet silenced “dirty closet” of pornography but somewhere in between I think a lot of people are missing out on the advantages an approachable view on sexuality can offer through approachable examples of pornography and that word in itself shouldn't be a shamed definition because it is a broad definition which wears thousands of different clothes to cover up its naked essence.
I find it hard to comprehend how sexuality in this world is so falsely seen as a negative in general and (relatively) positive in a sliver of its pie: entertainment and making babies. I guess that's what porn asks us to consider. Pornography gives us a reality most of society doesn't want to see because it means we must face those animistic passionate unreasonable acts that blow our mind and accept that in some areas, our biology is stronger than our mental ability to control it. How dare we give into to our biology as though devalued by our control of it, and thus making us less than we ought to be by a standard too high to reach? We are the perpetual failures. How can we ever feel better? By toning down our verbiage so we don't have to face, hear or see what we may be?
I live intuitively. Sometimes intuition points to biology and I’ve learned to trust the process and allow the freedom for its existence, which is necessary for true transformations to be made and that's really all that interests me, true transformations not surface bullshit. This is the main reason pornography should not be ill-judged by ill-minds for ill-effects because there is good stuff below the surface. Porn is safer than politics in matters of blood pressure, that's all I'm saying.
All of this has me thinking about where this new art porn collection I'm painting will go because it's less pornographic than I want and I'm wondering if it's because it's somewhat taking on its own vision as I let go or if I'm subconsciously toning down the reality for my audience. This is the part of the artist's process that's so difficult because it requires total faith in yourself and noble as the attempt is, it's not always easy to interpret the inner voice and the intuition that leads the artist to make art. Sometimes the distraction of what others need or demand for their safety becomes louder than the inner voice that whispers erotica into the mind.