Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. And lord knows artists do it.
They fall in love. Or lust. At Seattle Art Fair, there are a few romantic/erotic pieces for those who want to put a little passion on their walls. Here are three picks that are far from saccharine, including one that’s downright salty (NSFW).
Back Gallery Project (Vancouver, BC), Booth A26
“Trophy I” by Laurent Craste
There’s a lot going on here: the trophy as a symbol of victory or conquest, but punctured and deformed; the phallic nail penetrating the voluptuous porcelain body; the decal image of the lovers themselves, so typical of 19th century porcelain, but skewered like an effigy.
Whatever’s going on here, it certainly isn’t unalloyed pleasure. There’s at least a little pain involve, but for some I suppose that’s part of the game. Overall, it’s humorous, as romance often is (and relationships ought to be). I wouldn’t recommend it as a wedding gift, but the 18th anniversary is the porcelain anniversary, and if after 18 years a couple hasn’t actually stabbed each other (intentionally) and can still laugh off the pain of daily annoyances and occasional heartbreak, this is probably the perfect trophy to mark the occasion.
Alan Kluckow Fine Art (Sunningdale, UK), Booth B23
“Another Kind of Reason” by John Meyer
John Meyer is a renowned contemporary realist based in South Africa. Though he began with landscapes, he is probably best known for his narrative paintings, which have a tense, romantic or even film-noir feel, as the faces may be turned away or half in shadow. Rarely are his couples unambiguously enjoined. There is evidence of a tryst, but with the longing there is often a lingering sense of regret and disappointment.
The melancholy in “Another Kind of Reason” is less apparent, though still atmospheric in the darkness of the study where the couple is seized with passion. Or is it just him? We see them right of center, framed by the light of the window, with a painting to the left. The blurred figure within this painting mirrors our own voyeurism, looming in the darkness. It is a moment of visceral thrills, certainly, but with uncertain consequences, and viewers will react very differently based on their own experiences.
Catharine Clark Gallery (San Francisco, CA), Booth B18
“Sarah and Octopus/Seventh Heaven” by Masami Teraoka
The traditional shunga (i.e. erotic) woodblock prints of Japan were often quite frank and exaggerated with their depictions of sexuality, so Masami Teraoka is actually working firmly in that tradition here with her 29-color “Sarah and Octopus/Seventh Heaven” (actually carved and printed by Ukiyo-e master Tadakastu Takamizawa). She always updates her images, and typically alludes to safe sex, especially in the series from which this comes, Waves and Plagues.
(Some readers may have seen another example of work from that series in Art AIDS America at Tacoma Art Museum last year: a geisha hastily unwrapping a condom while receiving a deathly ghost as a client.)
In “Seventh Heaven,” the blonde Sarah is clutching a female condom, while an octopus primes her. There is mutual pleasure here, as is the case in the old Hokusai print that inspired this update. (In that one, likely inspired by the legend of a pearl diver named Tamatori, it’s a threesome with two octopuses.)
Some may view the image in a fetishistic way, but I read it simply as exaggerated desire and abandon, which was typical of shunga (which often made the genitals grotesquely large to imply the magnitude of passion, not express a preference). Sarah’s posture in “Seventh Heaven” is entirely expressive of that abandon, and the octopus (weeping with joy, it seems) is feeling it, too, in his/her own way. It’s undoubtedly a little kinky, but don’t let it feed any stereotypes regarding Japan, women and tentacles.
The 2016 Seattle Art Fair runs from August 4 through August 7. Learn more and buy passes on the Seattle Art Fair website, and check out all our coverage of the booths, events and the vision of the fair as a whole.