- Tom- Tom
Ben and I often find ourselves discussing the line between art and pornography. That discussion in the art world has caused many artists over time to hide their work when it deals candidly with sexual imagery.
I’ve been familiar with the work of Paul Cadmus ever since I began looking at male figurative imagery – just about all my life. I was surprised when I saw a series of explicit drawings Cadmus made in 1935 recently published for the first time in David Leddick’s new book – Gorgeous Gallery. We could have expected that Cadmus most certainly applied his skills as an artist to the subject of sex. But unless you went to the Kinsey Institute to look at their archives, you would not have seen these. I recommend David’s book to anyone interested in the discussion of sex in art.
Cadmus had great classic skills and was known for his homoerotic paintings and drawings – often not so veiled. The point is – artists use their skills to make images of what they find beautiful and interesting. When they make things they know would be seen as offensive to people who consider any explicit representation of sex to be pornography they can extend our vision. What do we see? Do we see an artist who has abandoned his talent to make something intended to jerk off to? Do we see something frivolous made to carnally amuse? Or are we grateful that Camus drew what he wanted and hope that he did it from life? This is an issue the art world wrestles with increasingly.
Generally, the art world thinks that if an image is aestheticized with skill – it rises above the level of porn and enters the realm of art.
I see this image in that “elevated” status. What I can say additionally – it was a pleasure to produce. And I don’t think that fact demotes the image to a lesser rank. What someone sees is what THEY will see. If they are sex phobic – they will say they see something disgusting even if it secretly fascinates. If they have a thing for feet and cum – they won’t care what this is labeled. They’ll just be glad to have found it.
One art tactic employed to make an image more erotic and aesthetically interesting at the same time is to hold back information to provide room for the viewer’s imagination to fill in what is not explicitly seen. One night in London recently, we had a long night of sexual play in our room lit with a colored light. The light level and color shift produced these soft focus images. The subject of the next two images is the same as the subject of the Cadmus drawing. Aestheticized blowjobs. Again, what the viewer sees is a function of their judgments. I can only say that I find the results as satisfying as the experience I recorded. And I’m glad not to hide these. They are part of a recent story in the member’s section of the site.
At times, an image reminds me of something I’ve seen in art that came before me. The trick is to make that allusion – perhaps to an old master drawing – and keep it modern and mine at the same time. Cadmus essentially used a single tactic – tour de force rendering – as his way of talking about what he wanted us to see while maintaining respect from the art world. Though apparently, Cadmus kept some things below the radar – no mater how beautiful. I have more tools available with modern technology and I enjoy experimenting with them all.
I’m charmed – amazed too at times – about what I see when we play with erotic energy freely. One of my tactics for showing you what I want you to see is to show you something I have never seen before. I love to turn the conversation about these issues upside down. If you wonder what is going on when you see this image – I have succeeded in engaging your imagination. For me, that fulfills the potential function of art.