Friday, March 14, 2014

Art or Erotica

I got this idea recently—it may have been an artistic inspiration, but it seems unnecessarily pretentious to say so—to modify one of my hot rod photographs by adding a stylized nude female torso as a distortion map under the grill. Here is a 'before-and-after' so you can judge the results:

original image - artistic by my friend's estimation.

'enhanced' image - that's hair at the top, a shoulder
below, and then a very nice, if somewhat pheumatic, breast -
no longer artistic according to my friend. IDK, really.
You decide.

My original concept didn't work out as I expected, so I made some modifications and finally ended up with the above as the best I could do with my limited command of Photoshop technique. It's okay, I think, but not quite what I envisioned. What I got is abstract to the point of being unrecognizable. I wanted recognizable. I wanted the nude form to pop out of the grill, not because I wanted to titillate but rather because I wanted people to look at it and wonder how I did that . . . or even better, to wonder how the guy that built the hot rod did that. Instead I've got people wondering what the hell it is.
I sent a copy to an artist friend of mine to get her opinion. She thought it was okay until she found out what it was. I had to tell her. Even then, she had a hard time seeing the nude. She thought this was fine so long as the nude was just abstract distortion. If the nude became obvious, then for her at least, what I had was no longer artistic but sleazy. According to her, anything that titillates is not art.
I pointed out that the nude form has been featured in art for centuries. She thinks the nude human form is artistic enough all by itself provided that 1) it is not meant to excite the sexual appetite of the viewer, and 2) it is not attached to something else—in this case a car. Putting a nude on a car cheapens both the car and the nude. Somehow the combination is vaguely pornographic, while the parts may stand alone as art.
I think she is wrong about this. I think she is ignoring two important things. First, she is ignoring the long-standing tradition of erotic art. Erotic art may be a subset of art, but it is still firmly ensconced under the general umbrella of art. Erotic art has been around since the beginning of art. I can't prove that. I don't remember any actual instances of erotic cave drawings for instance, but I have seen examples in Egyptian pictographs, on Mayan, Incan, and Aztec ruins, on ancient Chinese and Japanese scrolls, and even on Medieval churches. Some, if not all, of these were meant to titillate, but no one thinks they are not art. They are just so old that the patina of smut has worn off.
The other thing my friend has failed to understand is the long association of automobiles with eroticism. Every man understands this relationship from adolescence. There is a natural symbiosis between cars and naked women that cannot be denied. It wasn't put there by advertisers, although Lord knows they have spent an awful lot of effort reinforcing it. No, it has existed almost since the beginning of cars—just like eroticism has been a compelling theme in art almost since the beginning of graphic representation. The nude female form has been integral to the design of and the irresistible essence of the automobile since the first sheet-metal artisan hammered the first compound curve into a fender panel over a hundred years ago. You only have to look at the sleek, elegant, and oh-so-sexy Auburn Boattail Speedster on the cover of my book to know that is true.

Speedster is available from a number of outlets in a variety of formats.
Follow this link to my Goodreads book
 page to find the source that fits your needs.

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