Sebastián GherrëBare, Love your-self tattoo (2018)

I really like Gherrë‘s work.

And while I love the closeness and intimacy this exudes… it’s technically a mess.

Whatever he used to edit the scan of this image is incompatible with any photo editing software I have–and I’m running at least three different ones–as far as that goes.

Interestingly: downloading the image and opening it in Photoshop results in an incompatibility error and it tells you it’ll open the file but using existing settings. The result is actually a much less muddy or murky image–but one that is admittedly flatter.

I decided to evaluate it against the zone system and illustrate that with a .gif (I’ve selected all pixels in a given zone and deleted them):


There’s essentially no additional detail after Zone VII.

Thus we’re left with extremely compressed shadow tonalities and mid-tones are hanging out where we’d generally still expect to be dealing with shaded tones.

The walls are effectively where we’d expect skin tones and there’s no highlight detail to speak of.

The original negative is doubtlessly underexposed. But the subsequent editing is actually an especially ill-advised strategy given that analog has greater headroom when it comes to overexposure than digital does. Digital, on the other hand, doesn’t have a true black and is better handling low light situations as a result.

From the standpoint of maximizing output results it would be advisable to compress the highlights here and try to give the shadows a little bit more breathing room.

Still… it’s an intriguing image from someone who is clearly very good at what he does.

Source unknown – Title unknown {desaturated} (201X)

In my experience, no matter your anatomy–there is something about causing someone to orgasm at the same time that they are causing you to orgasm has this way of creating a feedback loop that increases the intensity of the pleasure experienced.

I realize the logistics probably became increasingly complicated the more parties are involved; but–I don’t know–I sort of feel like a simultaneous orgasm is probably amplified exponentially as you increase the number of parties involved.

Anyway, that’s the super pervy place this image takes my brain.

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

This has catalyzed an intense chain reaction of thoughts in my brain.

As I’ve mentioned like a bazillion times: I grew up in an Xtian doomsday cult. The sex education I received basically entailed two pieces: masturbation is a sin & the unscientific concluding post-script condoms don’t reliable prevent pregnancy of the transmission of STDs.

I mean my mom did buy me a book (James Dobson’s Preparing for Adolescence–if you’re ever irresponsibly bored and have an afternoon to dedicate to fomenting outrage, I’d recommend it).

What I learned about sex arrived initially through my friends, depictions of sex in Hollywood movies and a little bit later on: porn.

It was all about volume and voids–a volume introduced to a void and, in so doing, both realize their latent purpose.

As much as Xtian folks liked to talk shit about Freud’s ideas, their objections were less with his framework than with his insistence about openly discussing sex and sexuality.

In fact, there was a good bit of overlap between Freud’s conceptualization and their own. His notion that the presence of a penis and the conjoined realization that it was possible to be without a penis introduced castration anxiety, while the realization that not having a penis introduced penis envy.

Framing things in terms of volumes and voids creates this tension between giving and taking. It’s a tension that I’ve never really understood and is something which is so heavily tied up in my personal experience of cis-heteronormative politics that I have trouble seeing my way around any of it.

I have never really related to wanting to fill or be filled. I want to be emptied out.

I think to me this is just about the best way I’ve stumbled upon to express my sense of myself as queer.

In my late teens, I somehow stumbled onto Dan Savage’s Savage Love column when it was still in The Village Voice.

If Dan Savage was my first real honest-to-goodness provider of sex education, it was Tristan Taormino’s superb companion column Pucker Up which served as my crash course in how to stop being a kink shaming prude and learn to embrace new/different experiences and expand your horizons.

I specifically remember reading one of her columns where she talked about anal fisting. One of the persons interviewed talked about the feeling of having someone fist deep in your colon was a borderline transcendent experience.

The look on this dude’s face while he’s the meat in an MMM sandwich makes me think that there might be some merit to the notion that certain acts of sexual extremity can–in fact–bring about transcendent states.

Beyond that though this is really the first time I’ve experienced a desire to be a void waiting to be filled.

It reminds me of an interview Stoya did for Jezebel in conjunction with her new book Philosophy, Pussycats & Porn where while decrying the lack of substantive sex ed in the US, she also points out that:

[Porn] can be used to get a window into things that you might not want to
participate in yourself, like, for instance, with the more intense BDSM
stuff it can be a really good idea to experience some pornography about
it first, and imagine yourself in those shoes, before you do something
that risks being too intense. It can be a way of feeling out desires
instead of just diving straight in.

I would go a step further and say that as long as their is a rigorously fact based sex education component in place, pornography when consumed with a modicum of mindfulness can introduce you to things you never knew interested you but suddenly you are curious about.

Arvids Strazds – [←] Untitled from Desires of My Wife series; [→] Untitled from Desires of My Wife series (2017)

Strazds is a Latvian photographer who pictures his wife with various paramours.

The work suffers from a cloying veneer of legitimacy–and by ‘veneer of legitimacy’, I mean to indicate creators who attempt to head off any repudiation of their content by pointing to the demand for technical expertise required by their preferred production medium as proof of intrinsic artistic merit, i.e. these appear to be tintypes (although I am not convinced they are/it appears they may depend upon some post-production digital intervention).

The clearest corollary is likely Jock Sturges, who uses his preference for 8×10 analog view cameras in the creation of his work as a means of dodging valid questions/concerns over the sexual/voyeuristic propriety of his work. (That this has flaccid proposition has succeeded in short-circuiting debate for decades represents an incontrovertible failing on the part of the critical establishment.)

Still, I think there’s more to it than that. The focus on square compositions–a format typically most readily applicable to portraiture, and therefore front loaded with a certain innate intimacy’ is definitely enhanced by use of tactful vignetting and reliance upon the same principle those of us with a ton of freckles have known for years–that any three non-linearly plotted dots will, when connected, form a triangle.

Strazds work works due to these reiterative triads. For example: in [←] the two erections and the the way the rim lighting accentuates her left eye’s acknowledgement of the lens (and implicitly both the photographer and the audience). This scalene imposition renders the composition easily parsed and effectively guides the eye over the scene.

[→] is a bit more complicated. Her downward gaze reinforces that the vertex of the triangle is the site of erotic penetration. This leads to questions over whether the other vertices are her breasts, their faces, or the solarized area under her left breast and the hallow between her armpit and his chest. (This is not necessarily something I would’ve picked up on had I not simultaneously been struggling with how to talk about this absurdist gif while also tentatively engaging with Lucinda Bunnen’s work.)

Another point of convergence with Strazds work is Chloe des Lysses’ erotic self-portraiture. I’ve always had reservations about Lysses’ work–I wouldn’t label it narcissistic but there is an element of narcissism to it. Strazds, on the other hand, seems more collaborative. And although it’s entirely possible that there is a narcissistic cuckold adjacent motivation for the work–he does allow his wife a meditative joy of expression in many of his frames that I find entirely appealing.

Lastly, although I generally frown on watermarking your visual art, I absolutely understand the impetus for doing so. My rule is that if you’re going to do it, keep in mind that one is a visual artist and therefore the water mark should be more than just typeset. (Scott Worldwide is the exception that proves the rule–but again, his logo involves solid graphic design.) Strazds has a superb watermark–riffing off of Albrecht Dürer’s signature and mixing in a bit of the sensibilities from the Japanese tradition of Zen paintings.

teendreamsAnjelica (2013)

From the top: this is 100%, Grade A #skinnyframebullshit–there is literally no justification for this frame. (Yes, the image maker was probably thinking the top-to-bottom echoes and as such ‘enhances’ the sense of visual dynamism surrounding the act of anal penetration; I do not agree–since the downward slide on the thrusting phallus is damn near primal in it’s archetypal formation.)

Otherwise this is a reasonable well-exposed frame. Typically, for something so porn-y, there’d be a surfeit of light. And there sort of is–with the strong backlight coming through the window behind them. Still the light falls off in more or less the way you’d expect it to. (Unlike most porn, the dirtiest part of the act is not flooded with the most light… so that the viewer can discern all the graphic details. Not that you can’t see graphic sex but the image maker here trusts the viewers ability to read the image on their own without any unnecessary added direction. I like that.)

In effect, what’s been done here is this is probably still some high-end rented property in The Valley. But it’s set up to look more like a random capture from the head cheerleader and the quarterback fucking on her parents couch–while her parents are on vacation in the French Riviera or some other such shit.

I’d have preferred a wider frame to firmly ground the proceedings in a sense of place and time. Further, I think her left knee and his left knee–when not amputated–create an implicit triangle which I feel is much better at emphasizing the act of penetration.

This image also made me stop to think about the relationship between stylization in art-making vs. fueling a fantasy in pornography. Perhaps, it doesn’t really work but I feel like in any form of art making there is a degree of stylization in representation. Things are included, other things are excluded. Of the things included, there are questions about how it appears and how it will be read by the viewer, e.x. is it easier to see what he’s doing if he’s seated like this or would it be better if he were standing and turned slightly away from the viewer?

Porn on the other hand seems to universally and to a fault prioritize the presentation of the specific sex act as the top priority. And ultimately what I like so much about this image is that although I definitely do not agree with all the creative decisions–and certainly think it can be better. It does seem to at least be driven by an interest in how the image is going to be read on more or less an even field with making sure the sex act is clearly presented.

Apollonia Saintclair605 – Les béquilles [The Third Auxiliary] (2015)

Each time I re-encounter Saintclair’s work, my appreciation of her talent expands.

Like Mœbius–who’s syncretism of sacred (attuned to the rigorously established precepts of classical drafting and design in high art) and profane (explicitly graphic depictions of sexual activity) is almost certainly a major influence–Saintclair almost always releases work that is both salacious and eminently refined.

I adore the image above. I appreciate the fact that I actually sat here for ten minutes decoding the fact that the hands depicted here belong to four different people.

Further, I love the way her treatment of cross hatching and shading render appear to be almost art nouveau-esque when you are examining the piece close at hand, and then when you zoom out and see it at a distance, the stylization diminishes to affect a sort of photo-realistic look.

Compositionally, I can’t see how anyone could look at this and not appreciate the careful balance between highlight and shadow–I mean this illustration is, after all, a gradient from top to bottom (light to shadow). But like the yin-yang symbol, the shadows in the light area balance against light in the shadow areas. It’s masterful, really. (She’s probably also riffing on Escher here.)

Lastly: for three years–give or take and excluding guest curatorial stints–I’ve insisted on alternative between B&W and color images every other post on this blog. (I know, I know–your mind is blown.)

It’s not especially easy to pull of. There is a dearth of B&W stuff, a surfeit of color. So it’s refreshing to have an artist whose work successfully scratches a particular itch in such a virtuoso fashion.

(Disclaimer: this Tumblr was high af off Cali’s finest medical edibles while writing this post.)