** heads up – this post contains an image that may not be safe for work viewing **
Ever since humans started drawing stick figures on cave walls, the range of human emotion has been fair game for artistic expression: faith, hope, love, pride, prejudice, fear, loathing… except for one: the human prurient interest. I want you to look at a word for a second:
How does that make you feel? Does that word scare you? Is it slightly angular? Loaded? Hard to say in certain company? Even just a little? Is it a word you’d be willing to toss around at dinner with your mother? Even if it is – is it difficult for you to imagine that for many, this word doesn’t come out to play in mixed company very often?
…and yet it’s on all of our minds. Very, very, often.
How odd is it that the human emotion that is responsible for all of existence, is enshrouded in so much shame? We have no shame about the gratuitous ending of life – uber violet video games are casually played on TV sets in millions of family rooms around the world. Games in which dozens, if not hundreds and thousands of human deaths are depicted during the course of a round of play. The strictest laws in our society deal with the premature ending of human life. And yet – murder is rampant on prime time public TV airwaves.
We’ve crafted to handle the feelings that we are too afraid to touch with bare hands:[pullquote]”Porn” is a pejorative term that allows us to discuss works of art without actually admitting that we LIKE it ourselves.[/pullquote]
“Porn” is a pejorative term that allows us to discuss works of art without actually admitting that we LIKE it ourselves. How is it that the feeling that brings people together in ostensibly loving encounters, is shrouded in so much shame? Our culture has got this completely backwards. Our cultural sensibilities remind me of a young adolescent that is too embarrassed to admit the facts of one’s 7th grade crush. Just as this kid should be expected to grow up and someday speak of love interests matter of factly, we too, as a society, ought to learn to discuss our own purient interests without any shame.
Is this art, or porn?
“I shall not today attempt further to define [hardcore pornography] …But I know it when I see it”. – Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.
Suppose you had a raging sexual fetish for cucumbers. I won’t get into WHY, but let’s just pretend the very sight of them gets you all hot and bothered. Would this make the weekly grocery store advertisements a pornographic publication, for those who so love the cucumber?
All things are relative.
I reject the notion that an image must be either “art” or “porn”. “Porn” and “obscenity” are evaluative terms based on the consensus of the contemporary society’s sensibilities. That being said, what was offensive in one era may be eventually accepted as commonplace in another. One of my goals as an artist is to challenge that line between “art” and “porn”. The erotic can, and should be celebrated. We should take pride in the natural, beautiful drives and appetites that bring new life, that bond couples, that can even heal bodies, minds, and hearts. Works that “appeal to the prurient interest” can have serious artistic merit. Allowing the prurient and the profound to co exist is true evolution of the soul.
Check out some of my attempts to make art of erotica here.