Filipina erotica artists on dispelling sex taboos via nudity and raw imagery

The existence of nude and erotic art is not new in this world. In earlier centuries, the naked body and sexual acts were deemed natural. But as time went by, such works would marked with censorship, considering them as indecent and pornographic. Some were also considered “symbolic representations of sin.” It also just so happened that most of the subjects were women like the Greek goddess Aphrodite and Eve from the Bible.

How does one differentiate erotic art from pornography? Psychology Today posits that when subjects are “portrayed in a manner that focuses on their inner and outer radiance, their fleshy vitality, and the work itself seems to manifest a passionate and powerful affirmation of life and the pleasures of this world,” it’s considered erotic. But when subjects are reduced to their body parts and “if any beauty appears subordinate to the overriding purpose of arousal,” then it falls in the pornographic realm.

While erotic art and porn are more embraced today, there are still those who flinch at the sight of them, especially if you live in a conservative country like the Philippines. But it’s not always as “dirty” as people make them out to be—it can show deep emotion, breaking the taboo in sex and sexuality, and even tackle social issues. There are also artists that merge eroticism and pornography to challenge the viewers’ perspective and create a wider discussion.

To further understand this, we talked to Filipina artists Darling Kink and Salome Salvi about their works, their medium, and the inspiration behind them.

Give us a quick background on how you started doing erotic/nude art. Why choose this subject? What’s your usual medium when creating your works?

Screengrabbed from Darling Kink’s Instagram account

Darling Kink: I started making erotica exclusively in 2015. Producing and putting erotica out into the world gave me power and control over my sexuality, desires, and fantasies. It was control like I’ve never had before—a way to combat both internal and external oppressions I deal with as a woman. I work in digital format but I’ve been wanting to go back to traditional media for quite some time now.

Salome Salvi: I didn’t start my alter account (my Twitter account where I post my nudes under an alias) as an outlet for my art. Initially, I just wanted a way to scratch my exhibitionist kink, and to contend with my issues with my self-esteem and body dysmorphia. As time passed, I found it more and more rewarding to push the boundaries of the aesthetic value of my posts. It became more than just showing my tits: I started experimenting with lighting and more complex poses for my photographs, and I also started incorporating different digital art techniques like painting, glitching, and collaging when obscuring the backgrounds (it is recommended for alters to cover their backgrounds and faces to avoid being identified). I guess my alter twitter account transformed from a personal nudes receptacle into the creative outlet it is today because I have always been artistically inclined, and the desire to create and hold a mirror to what I experience has never died in me.

Do your works reflect certain aspects of your personal life or are they inspired by other people’s experiences?

DK: Personal aspects of my life certainly bleed into the work I produce. The experiences I’ve had and the fantasies I harbor serve both as inspiration and crutch to my art production. My approach is incredibly introspective and meditative.

SS: My artworks are very personal; initially, my nudes were a cry for validation, something I used to need as a crutch for my self-worth. My art’s use to me has changed over time though, now they are borne out of my need for catharsis, my need to exorcise memories that weigh heavily on me, and my need to express my love for the many lecherous and strange things that intrigue me. I suppose that some of the themes that I explore (such as voyeurism, pornography, insecurity, harassment, loneliness, etc.) are relatable to many people in a community like alter Twitter. Alter Twitter users are all brought together by the need for sexual expression and the need to escape repression and judgement, and the issues that rear their heads in my artwork are issues they face as well.

Did you have any inhibitions at first about using these experiences in artworks or self-portraits like these?

DK: I wouldn’t call them self-portraits. More like transitory thoughts put into paper. Of course, I deal with inhibitions every now and then, I still do. It’s always an internal struggle if I should put out this type of work but I’ve learned that in putting out my work, I am able to start a conversation about a topic as taboo as sex. I want that perception to change, and I’m glad that I’m providing an avenue for people to confront their inherent desires and fantasies.

SS: I don’t think I had many inhibitions going into creating artworks like this. I started my alter Twitter account to expose my body so that my audience can share in my journey to self-love. From the beginning, I have always been comfortable with nudity and sexually explicit subjects because I never considered sex to be more than what it actually is: a social activity, a bodily function, and an indispensable part of our humanity. It is nothing to be intimidated by. Getting in touch with my emotions for use in my creative output has always been easy as well; I am notorious among my friends for being dangerously transparent and outspoken. My desire for catharsis and freedom has always overwhelmed my inhibitions and my fear of vulnerability.

Screengrabbed from Darling Kinks Instagram account

How can your works be used to expand the conversation on sex, sexuality, and other similar themes?

DK: Like I said, it’s all about opening up an avenue to question why sex is taboo especially in the Philippine context. My being able to put out this sort of work is a privilege in itself as many Filipina women aren’t afforded this sort of freedom. My art is there to encourage women like myself to embrace their sexuality, or at least provide a channel for people to view sex, gender, sexuality, etc. as normal occurrences of daily human life.

SS: I would like to think that my artwork can help people look at the female form as less like an object, ready for use, and more like a source of beauty and power. In a way I intend for my audience to be desensitized to the image of my naked body, the naked female body. Through that normalization I want to dispel the appall that comes when they are faced with nudity, and have that dismay and that shock be replaced with appreciation and positivity. I want my audience to be stirred to participate in the conversation about nudity, sexuality, and misogyny. I want them to ask questions about their voyeurism and their consumption of pornography, and how that affects me and other women as subjects of their gaze, as objects of their fantasy.

For you, what should some people understand when looking at your works?

DK: My work is therapeutic to me, and it’s a bonus that many people are able to relate to it. I’d like to think they serve as commentaries beyond sex—love, desperation, intimacy, and freedom are themes I discuss regularly in my work.

Screengrabbed from Darling Kink’s Instagram account

SS: Personally, with my fascination and genuine interest in the realm of pornography and sex work, I invite the appropriation of my art as pornography. As a viewer of art I have always had a fondness for output that is considered low art: vaporwave art, hardcore pornography, B-movies, Lisa Frank, novelty songs, etc. I love juxtaposing the beauty and spiritual qualities of the naked female form against vulgarity of kitsch. By creating that dissonance and by distributing it through my sketchy Twitter account, I would love for people who don’t typically consume art to join in the conversation about the boundaries between high art, pop art, kitsch, and trash. In the face of my love for kitsch, what I also intend is for the artistic credibility of my work to evaluated DESPITE its medium, its distribution, its in-your-face sexuality, its trashy influences, and its notoriety.

Moreover, with the way that I photo-manipulate and decorate my smutty photos, I would like to challenge the viewers of my art to look beyond my nakedness and get lost in the emotions I try to convey. I want to immerse them in the stories I tell with my pictures. I challenge them to see my nakedness and my sexiness as but one facet in the gestalt of my humanity

 

Art by Marian Hukom

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