Trending: The New Erotic -- A Semi-Annual Report

By David Schonauer   Wednesday August 5, 2015

Artists will never stop dealing with human sexuality.

At least that is our prediction of the day. And we’d say it’s a pretty safe bet.

Last week, Huffington Post  arts writer Priscilla Frank reminded the world that erotica goes way back to prehistoric France (naturally). And, boy, those Greeks and their kylixes.

Stories about photographers exploring eroticism appear regularly, so we’re starting a semi-annual sex report spotlighting stories we've seen recently.

A few months ago, for instance, we took note of photographer Polly Brown’s book, Little Deaths, which depicts public places where people experienced what Brown calls “a little self-induced sexual relief.”  Brown found these places by setting up an email account where her friends could tell their stories anonymously. “I ... wanted to bring a little sexiness to the everyday,” Brown told the Huffington Post. “A picture of an ordinary tumble-dryer could, for example, suddenly carry a shiny shimmering seduction.”

            From Polly Brown's Little Deaths

Speaking of public places, have you ever noticed that wherever you look you can see a vagina? No? Then you should check out the Look At This Pusssy  Instagram account, which features photographs of objects and scenery that resemble said body part. The account was created by Chelsea Jones and Eva Sealove, who told Bullett  that the idea started as a “Where’s Waldo?” game between the two of them. Said Jones, “I wanted to create a space where people can feel like ‘it’s normal to feel like this’ or ‘it’s normal that I look like this.’ Everything is a pussy and everything about a pussy is beautiful.”

         From Look At This Pusssy

Feature Shoot  recently spotlighted Chicago-based photographer Evan Baden’s series “Technically Intimate,” which explores the phenomenon of sexting. The work, notes FS, “envisions and stages the circumstances behind real photographs that he has discovered online.” When asked why he chose not to simply appropriate the original shots, the photographer stresses that to do so would be to re-violate the privacy of those who have had their trust breached.

          From Evan Baden's "Technically Intimate"

Meanwhile, artist Rachel Lee Hovnanian  used sculpture, photography and installations to examine how mobile phones and tablets are affecting intimacy in the bedroom. “Now we can be with someone next to us and at the same time be with someone else 5,900 miles away,” says Hovnanian at the Huffington Post. “All of this is exciting and very seductive. I felt it was important to take a hard look at the nature of this distraction—technology providing a gratifying false mindfulness.”

                        From Rachel Lee Hovnanian

Though digital technology has taken sex into new areas, erotica in print is not yet a lost art: Culture blog It’s Nice That  recently featured Paris-based magazine L’imparfaite, which is not your father’s sexy magazine. “Focusing on the sociopolitical aspects of sex, L’imparfaite approaches it as an innately human activity, dressing it down and displaying it openly rather than venerating it as an immaculate ideal,” notes INT. “Narrowing in on the aesthetic properties of such stories, the magazine then retells them in the form of poetry, photography, interviews and illustration.”

          From L’imparfaite

PPD has taken note of New York-based photographer Linda Troeller  and ethnographer Marion Schneider’s book Orgasm: Photographs and Interviews, which focuses on 25 women of different ages, nationalities, and cultural and social backgrounds who re-enact their first orgasms for Troeller’s camera. Recently, we saw a similar project from Lauren Crow, who photographed women while they were masturbating to show what female pleasure really looks like.

                        From Lauren Crow

“In a patriarchal society, women are flooded with information on how to be and how to look in order to please others, namely men," writes the Portland, Oregon-based photographer on her website. "In terms of female pleasure, we are rarely shown what it really looks like."

Why are artists so interested in sex? Several answers come to mind: The first is, why not? Many people find sex to be an especially compelling subject. On the other hand, ArtNet News  reports on a new study revealing that students studying the arts have more sex than those majoring in computer science and dentistry.

We could have predicted that, too.

We leave you with this piece of wonderfulness, which we praised sometime back at Motion Arts Pro—the opening title sequence for the Showtime series Masters of Sex. It was created by art director Leanne Dare of Elastic (the studio that has also done credits for HBO’s True Detective —see this story), who made uproarious use of mundane stock video and photos.


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