This time we ask whether the artistic process overwhelms eroticism enough to make it publicly palatable.
We’re at that time of year where I’m looking at the deadline for submissions to some of next year’s art shows is rapidly approaching and with that comes the pressure to create not only something that is appropriate for each particular show but also material that advances the processes we started last year. When I first introduced the Experimental Series, we focus a lot more on double exposure and kept the waveform more in the background. Then, as I played more with waveforms, they became dominant to the point that perhaps they overwhelmed the image a bit. To some degree, I like that and I stand by my decisions for those images.
In examining that material, though, and the fact that I still have most the prints sitting behind my sofa (every one of which is still for sale, by the way), I’m not as impressed by the double exposure as I was this time last year and I’m more inclined to view waveforms as an element, not the specific focus. There are times when I feel that the digital elements get in the way and the emphasis of that is what inspired my approach to this set of images.
At the same time, I’m stewing in my own brain with how people, in general, are responding to erotic art. Multiple exhibitions this year have given me the opportunity to stand back, somewhat anonymously, and watch how people interact with different pieces and styles. Many are curious and ask questions. Some are inherently dismissive. But a fair number are also confused, not sure how they’re “supposed” to respond to a nude image in public. No one wants to be inappropriate or insensitive, but exactly where those lines are within any given subsection of society, and especially one’s own friend group, is difficult to determine.
As a result of all this hyper-analyzing and over-abundant self-doubt, to really ramp up the processing on this set of images. If I’m totally honest with my personal definitions, these are works of digital art, not photographs. While there are photographs at the base, the digital process obscures or overrides all but an outline of the figures. In fact, our two models, Cassandra Shea and Mercedes, could probably show these images to their own mothers and not be recognized. I’m including a couple of the base images in the gallery below to demonstrate the contrast.
Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, it takes significantly longer to process the images in this manner than it would if I were, for example, treating them as normal black and white images. The first image took nearly ten hours of tweaking before I was satisfied. Each successive image went a little bit faster, though I did find myself going back and “touching up” earlier images as I got deeper into the set. This raises the question of whether the amount of time involved affects the value of the finished work in any way. If one considers their work in a traditional sense of xhours = y$ then yes, these should have greater value. However, I have seen no evidence that those who buy art, especially erotic art, give a damn how long it took. They have a budget and a purpose and those factors drive what they’re willing to buy.
The downside, more than ever, is that the parts of these works that get me most excited are details only visible when the image is viewed at substantial size. They’re designed for 16×20″ prints and the whole canvas was a consideration in creating each piece. Therefore, if one is viewing the images on their phone, which the greater majority of you do at least initially, there’s a lot you’re going to miss. That bothers me because I want everyone to be as excited about these images as I am and that is less likely to happen if you can’t see the details. All this creative angst has really bothered me this week. So much so, I wrote a whole article about it.
I do hope everyone finds these images thought-provoking. I would be thrilled if they led to a discussion of how digital media deconstructs or enhances all art, not just erotica. If they don’t raise that question for you, though, don’t push it. I’m okay with your interpretation being different.
As always, click on one of the thumbnails below to view the gallery full-screen on your device. Our tremendous thanks to Cassandra Shae and Mercedes for indulging the concept and producing the awesome raw material. Enjoy.