Sex, gender and the taboo are topics that are part of the dark underground of society. We all know it’s there but we, as a society, don’t like to acknowledge or talk about it. In fact, many in society talk of it with disdain and negativity; despite sex being a natural body response. Sexual fetish, sexual intercourse and sexual admiration is something to be hushed during public discourse, except for one place: the museum. Sex, the taboo and the nude image can be identified in almost every single museum in most galleries from early classical works (and even earlier) to the avant-garde and contemporary period. It can be found in sculptural form, print form and in painterly renditions of a classical figure. When did it become so openly brazen in an “educational” institution? Why, as I dare pose a question, is art and sex so intertwined and accepted as art appreciation rather than the taboo topic many associate with sex today? I don’t know the answer to those quieries, but what I do know is I am sure glad that there is a place that is able to be so open about sex. There are many times when art expresses intimate moments that hit on the taboo including incest, sexual fetish, adultry and sexual deviance and I believe there is a need for it, whether it supports or negates the sexual preference. It allows a discourse of discussion that is otherwise unavailable. My point is, art allows you to have the conversation and address sex.
Image and Illustration are the two forms that enable the creator to express the taboo in a way that reflects not only their sexual identity but ables to communicate with the wider public more acceptable views in relation to taboo. Maybe not acceptable views, but presents to the voyeur an illustrative outlet that allows the viewer to engage in sexual taboo that is divorced from pornographic imagery, but instead represents sexual identity and its role in the everyday. Sexual expression enables a communication that transcends verbal engagement, and instead allows for an intimacy that can only be shared in that form. Art is able to express this notion in different ways from theme and concept to outright realistic visuality. This allows the divide of discrepancy in social interaction and legislation to be left at the door and allow an embrace of sexuality as a social norm. Art is able to allow a positive engagement with sexuality that is otherwise rejected in public forums. Maybe it is because of the physical intimacy that it sex has become so taboo, but I am relieved personally that sex and art are able to have such a relationship. It allows artists to have an outlet when times do not allow such expression.
Andy Warhol lived in a time where it was illegal to be LGBTQ in NY. One could not outrightly express sexually attraction to the same sex or identify as a different gender as it is becoming widely accepted today. Yet, in a time of LGBTQ suppression, Warhol was able to talk about sex, sexuality and the taboo through film and image. He did so through voyeuristic films titled “blowjob”. In fact, his “blowjob” film was filmed in 1963. Now it doesn’t suggest homosexual intercourse instead it hints at the blowjob without actually showing a blowjob. The viewer instead becomes a voyeur that begins to imagine what is happening because of the title itself. He plants in the viewers mind the act of sex through word and emphasised by a moving image. A brilliant way of addressing sexual intimacy and involving the viewer in its conversation. Prior to 1980 there were existing laws against private consent of homosexual conduct. With the knowledge that Warhol did associate as LGBTQ, it must have been difficult to sexually express himself, but art allowed him an outlet to open the conversation for himself and others. I say this because it was once taboo but was able to expressed through the visual imagery of film and screen printing.
Sex & Art have had an intimate relationship throughout the centuries because it is a core act within the circle of life. Sex is an act most of us engage with and yearn for that connects us to another person and brings emotions (good or bad) that cannot be experienced elsewhere. Expressing its importance through image allows for the conversation to be always there whether positive or negative.
**Please be aware that this piece is an opinion piece, not based in fact, but on observation.