Thoughts on erotica week

Posted in Art Papers, Sex in Caribbean Art by Adele Todd on June 17, 2009

The decision to have a seven day exploration of sexual material exhibited in seven locations in Woodbrook and St.Clair has spawned many conversations, at least it has done so for the people I know, who love art of all kinds.

 Erotic work is not an automatic choice. So perhaps that fact is a big part of the decision to choose it as a theme. Apart from painting the female nude, there is very little that one can call sensual work in Trinidad and Tobago.
Perhaps the vibrant colour palette of Sarah Beckett? Or the abstractions of LeRoi Clarke and Ken Chrichlow, the sense of intimacy is not usually considered as the foremost intention of most
artists practicing in Trinidad.

The first thought that springs to mind is to wonder what is considered erotic to some?
From what I have been able to observe from the open call seen on Facebook , I concluded that nudity is the obvious answer to ‘erotica week’.
The deadline for the work was  extended and the suggestion made for edgier material.That produced an image or two of bondage.

Is this a surprise?

Trinidad is a contradictory place where self expression is concerned. Here is a country where for two days before Lent, people gyrate in overtly sexually explicit dance, dressed in the least they could get away with on the street.
The music is also sexually suggestive.

Yet the art is as tame as it can be.

When I have discussed this with artists the reason is a bit cloudy.
On the one hand, the practicing artist will tell you that the public is uninterested in paintings of the human body.
Yet Martin Superville paints the form almost exclusively. He attempts to show intimate moments in village life.
Sundiata also paints the human form.

On the other hand, the idea of using the sale of sex to the public is not given much thought by artists. People instantly say that it is limiting, it’s been done in other countries, and painting the nude form in not the interest for them. Nor is the idea of  suggesting the emotions of sex, sensuality or erotica necessarily the cause for working.

Shalini Seereeream has begun to play with the idea of the sensual form in her body of work that takes on a rich tradition of Indian miniature history and caribbean underpinnings. She has attempted to explore female sexuality through her techniques.
Then on a more contrasted note the Performance artist Michelle Isava looks at female identity in her work.

Yet, for every artist attempting to expand their range, the desire of most artists to play it safe becomes more and more overt.

One can expect the sensual theme from Stuart Hahn, whoes media choice is coloured pencils. His work is steeped in classical themes of sex and death.

Then, in Tobago, the German artist Louise Kimme’s sculptures of Tobagonian peoples, have a natural sensual energy in spite of their clothed bodies.

This brings the discussion back to the question of what is erotica?

It certainly is not necessarily the nude form.

My friends and I agree that in order for a reasonable discussion to be had on erotica, we cannot look at the limited material of Trinidad and Tobago.
Yet, this decision to have a series of works that one must walk to is a good idea. It is an event focused around Art and it should be encouraged further.

Being the first attempt at such an exercise, it will have challenges. The plan is to have a number of activities, from spoken word and music to art, for people to enjoy, as they enjoy a drink in a bar or a lime at a studio space.

 Will this ignight thought? Hopefully it will. But more over, it should produce even more interesting work in the future.


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