Thinking about sex…in Art

Posted in Sex in Caribbean Art by Adele Todd on August 16, 2007

Some pondering on sexual content and discontentment

What is the status of sexual material and content in art in Trinidad and Tobago? It can be summed up in two words, non-existent. This is strange, considering the strong sexual content in music and carnival. The artists working in the sensual in Trinidad and Tobago does not have much of a career. Some may argue that there is the work of Boscoe Holder and Sundiata, both representational artists who are known for painting the nude female form. However, painting someone naked is not necessarily the same as painting nakedness.

Irenee Shaw

To be more specific, to paint nudity is not merely about capturing precise body structure. There is also the underlying current of perceived sexuality. I would argue that many nude drawings and paintings from Caribbean artists fall just shy of producing any emotional undercurrency of the forbidden. I believe that this is so because of the whole commercial factor of working as an artist in the islands generally. Many artists want to show more, produce more, and want to touch on themes that may chafe or ignite a social conscience, but many are wary, not afraid, but wary of the fact that the public is apathetic, galleries are loath to go off script and they have tried and tried, to no success. There are artists like Irenee Shaw, who have done self portraiture and understand the psychological underpinnings of the nude female form, and to Miss Shaw’s credit, she has gone down this road alone.

Shalini Seereeram, a young IndoTrinbagonian contemporary artist recently showed drawings suggesting deeper emotional aspects of female life, as did the SyrianTrinbagonian artist Zoya Tommy show images of a young woman experiencing intimacy. The attempt to slip the boundaries have begun. With a theme so ripe and open, it shall be interesting to see where artists in the Caribbean region shall take sensual imagery. To understand this, I believe that it would be fair to put into perspective how and why art in the region is almost devoid of such imagery.


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