Barbara NitkeBathroom Kiss from Kiss of Fire series (1995)

I have mixed feelings about Nitke.

Besides her stated aim of “find[ing] the humanity in marginal sex,” her work all features a clinically dispassionate eye.

This allows the viewer to bear witness to an awkwardly tender moment such as above. Her presentation of action as jarring, motion blur and off-kilter compositions have become endemic in the work of image makers interested in both fine art and BDSM documentation (I’m thinking here specifically of Aeric Meredith-Goujon and his ilk.)

What irks me is the insistence upon conceptual layering for the pornographic to receive art world credibility. It’s almost like for something to be deemed Capital-A Art, the pornographic has to be somehow mediated and/or commented upon by the work.

Let me give you an example: I’m beginning to consider (with some level of seriousness) pursuing a PhD in Art History. What I am interested in is studying the dichotomy between Art and Porn throughout history and then insofar as it can be reconciled suggest transgressive art as an art historical current seeking to point toward a synthesis between these two allegedly opposite poles.

Invariably when I’m talking to academics–trying to sort potential recommendations, seeking advice w/r/t receptive/non-prudish programs–invariably people ask me why I’m so interested in Jeff Koons or throw Noam Chomsky at me.

I detest Koons. And my favorite incident in Miriam Elia’s indispensible We Go To The Gallery relates to Koons–it’s the perfect take down of his vacuous work but it also serves as a damning critique of why the ‘art world’ tolerated his’ short-lived foray into porn with his Italian porn star partner.

(As far as Chomsky goes, I’m not even going to address it because people far more eloquent than I’ll ever be have already pointed out how it’s bullshit to code switch from critiquing capitalism to a feminist perspective without acknowledging the overarching shift in context. Chomsky’s is allowed to find porn distasteful; he’s not allowed to use his status as a notable (white, cishet male) Academic to attribute unassailable factual status to his own poorly considered concern fapping.)

I guess my point is simply: the subject of Art is inherently relateable to the human experience. Sexuality (or asexuality) is a facet of the human experience. Therefore it is well within the purview of Art to consider it.

I object to the pretense of bending the work into conceptual pretzel shapes to earn a distinct of being meritorious. I want more de Sades, Bellmers and Batailles; fewer Gaspar Noés.

Mark SteinmetzTitle Unknown (20XX)

In 8 days this blog will have its 4th birthday.

As a direct result of this project I’ve been introduced to a number of image makers whose work astounds me: Allison Barnes, Mike Brodie, Kelli Connell, Stéphane Coutelle, Anna Grzelewska, Amy Montali, Igor Mukhin, @ericashires, Joanna Szproch, and Prue Stent.

Currently, I’m fascinated with Steinmetz and his work in a way that I’m not exactly sure how to articulate with any sort of clarity. Yes, he’s probably the best B&W analog print maker since Weston. Yes, his compositions are always impeccable. Yes, he fosters an empathy between viewer and subject that is fully radical–in every sense of the word.

I think what intoxicates me about his work is not that they’re narrative–strictly speaking they aren’t. However, the presentation of people not as objects but as haver’s of incisive, often complicated and conflicting inner lives. They aren’t synecdoches for ideas or conceptual metaphors. They are closer to characters in a film of which the audience is provided only one solitary frame.

So I was thrilled to stumble onto this image of his in a video interview he did for a workshop in Spain. Here’s an image the fit the structure and content of my blog that didn’t require me to digress and be like I know this doesn’t really go here but since I’m entirely preoccupied with it, I’m going to just leave this here.

Also, he’d never take me but I would quite my job and move to Georgia in half a heartbeat if he’d accept me as an apprentice. That is how much I’m blown the fuck away by his work. I’ve begun to consider him in much the same terms as Vermeer, Tarkovsky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor–my personal trinity of creative deities.

Kelli Connell – Convertible Kiss (2002)

Honestly, I am too profoundly moved by this body of work to offer any sort of worthwhile commentary–it’s just effing exquisitely devastating.

So beyond begging you to spend some time with this work, I’m going to let the artist speak in her own words:

These images were created from scanning and manipulating
two or more negatives in Adobe Photoshop.  Using the computer as a tool
to create a “believable” situation is not that different from accepting
any photograph as an object of truth, or by creating a story about two
people seen laughing, making-out, or quarreling in a restaurant. These
photographs reconstruct the private relationships that I have
experienced personally, witnessed in public, or watched on television.  
The events portrayed in these photographs look believable, yet have
never occurred.  By digitally creating a photograph that is a composite
of multiple negatives of the same model in one setting, the self is
exposed as not a solidified being in reality, but as a representation of
social and interior investigations that happen within the mind.

This work represents an autobiographical questioning of sexuality and
gender roles that shape the identity of  the self in intimate
relationships. Polarities of identity such as the masculine and feminine
psyche, the irrational and rational self, the exterior and interior
self, the motivated and resigned self are portrayed.  By combining
multiple photographic negatives of the same model in each image, the
dualities of the self are defined by body language and clothing worn.
This work is an honest representation of the duality or multiplicity of
the self in regards to decisions about intimate relationships, family,
belief systems and lifestyle options.

The importance of these images lies in the representation of interior
dilemmas portrayed as an external object – a photograph.  Through these
images the audience is presented with “constructed realities”.  I am
interested in not only what the subject matter says about myself, but
also what the viewers response to these images says about their own
identities and social constructs.

Lux Aeterna Girl – Untitled (2014)

(I’m not 100% on the source for this. The original post appears to be a now defunct Tumblr named luxaeternagirl; thus I have credited it as such. If that’s incorrect, please let me know and I will edit the attribution.)

This isn’t a good image–not even close. The camera is off-center a foot and panned right about 15 degrees to attempt to compensate. I understand that after cars, bathrooms are some of the most difficult places to shoot due to them almost always being small and cramped but the two shadows in the upper left and right alone with the angle of the tub edge in the lower right corner is really effing distracting.

What I will say is that given what is probably a single incandescent overhead fixture, the skin tone here is very much on point. It has that natural peach tonality that you get from remembering the rule of thumb w/r/t skin tone: Red > Blue > Green.

The rendering of the skin is super important here–by getting it right, it makes the fact that both participants skin is flushed red more discernible. The edge of the left partner is obvious along the outside of the ears; while the partner on the right has reddening ears, faces and neck. It might almost be sunburn but with the pale complexion in tandem with body language, it seems more likely that she’s just extremely aroused.

And that is what distinguishes these images: chemistry. There is no questioning the primacy of their physical desire for one another. The partner on the right in the top image is doing the hesitant if-I-so-much-as-feel-your-skin-I-will-lose-any-trace-of-self-control; the way the partner on the left is leaning in, in an effort to draw the other out. The response in the second image doesn’t give in so much as beg for defenses to be laid to waste, to earn the victory by no other means except total surrender.

To me–chemistry like this is what is missing from 95% of erotic work. And it’s a shame, really… because were effort expended on facilitating it–less artful work (much like this) would shine in spite of it’s technical shortcomings because it would present a record of physical desire it would also simultaneously illustrate something true about the psychology of physical desire.

Charles Hudson WhiteThe Kiss (1905)

Although this is clearly staged (not to mention: some #skinnyframebullshit), it feels like that Lacanian sentiment: [t]ruth has the structure of fiction.  The truth here has the structure of the fiction that in every relationship one person loves more than the other.

…and oh my! But, the light coming through those eight background window panes, and the reflection on the wood floor and that angled kicker reflection highlighting the line of her throat.

I can’t look at this and not recall the way “[m]y blood is alive with many voices telling me I am made of longing.