Blog / 2012 / Art and Pornography

July 29, 2012

When I began work on Crime Against Nature, I knew I didn’t want to depict animals having sex, despite the fact that the series is about sexuality and is made up of paintings of animals. I was sure that I wanted to avoid explicit images because the point of the project is not to bother viewers by showing them sex. Instead I want the audience to be drawn in by the presentation—the beauty of the images, their accessibility, the simplicity of the book I’m writing in conjunction with the series—and then bother them with the information I was sharing through the pretty presentation!

So, no animal lovemaking. It was really a no-brainer. Until I came to this animal.

painting of leopard slugs mating
Gwenn Seemel
When a Man-woman Loves a Woman-man (Leopard Slug)
acrylic on panel
10 x 10 inches

Leopard slugs are hermaphrodites. Each one reproduces as both a male and a female. When two slugs mate, they accept sperm from one another and then lay eggs.

And their sex act is so improbably aesthetic that I felt it would be a shame not to show it. Still, I wrestled with the decision. Why is this kind of intercourse more beautiful—more worthy of being painted—than that of any other animal? Then it hit me: the beauty is in the mystery.

Most of us have never seen leopard slugs mating and, what’s more, most of us can’t imagine an animal whose reproductive organs grow out of their heads. And that means that this image reads first and foremost as an abstract grouping of forms and colors. By the time a viewer has recognized the slugs (if indeed they do) they’re drawn in by other factors and the fact that they’re looking at a representation of animal sex is less shocking.

And therein lies the difference between pornography and art. The former leaves little to the imagination. Its intent is to show all and, though it might do so with artistry, it always lacks mystery. Art—even erotic art—leaves more blanks to be filled in by the viewer and that’s what makes it art.

The original slug painting already has a forever home, but you can see other works currently for sale. For prints and pretty things with this image on them, check out my Redbubble shop.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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