I caught up with artist Marc DeBauch to look at his series of work titled Beach Boys.
When did you discover and start to explore your passion for art?
I started drawing and painting when I was three years old. Before I was five, I remember creating a crayon drawing of the Sinking of the Titanic on the rough plaster of the living-room wall of my parents’ house. It was impossible to remove — my parents weren’t happy with me, but after that they provided me with enough art materials to pursue my creative interests without destroying their home.
When did you start specialising in painting naked men and creating erotic art?
It was 36 years ago when I started painting male nudes and selling them in a local gay book store. Then, in 1995, I entered two paintings in the Tom of Finland Foundation’s Emerging Erotic Artists Contest. I was won first place, which opened the door for my art career, as I was immediately approached by galleries and magazines that wanted to feature my art.
This gave me the confidence and notoriety to exhibit and sell my work at erotic art fairs and gay events. At that time, the internet was just emerging, so my friend Andrew created a website for me, which was a fantastic tool to get my art out to people around the world.
You’ve written that Tom of Finland is one of the major influences on your work — when did you first encounter the work of Tom of Finland?
I remember seeing Tom of Finland’s art in a porno magazine my friend had in high school. I was just amazed at the sexual tension, outrageous anatomy, and attention to detail in Tom’s art.
This was back in the early 1970s, so gay porn was just emerging legally in magazines and films. At the time, I wasn’t talented enough to draw the human figure accurately. But, I was fascinated enough to want to try. My sister’s boyfriend was a photographer, and he gave me his dark room equipment — back then you actually had to develop film, as there were no digital cameras.
I talked a friend into posing naked for me while jacking off, and I developed the film and made some prints. I was 14 years old, photographing another 14-year-old boy. It was very exciting creating my own porn! Unfortunately, my dad — being supportive of my art — wanted to see the photos, and of course I couldn’t show him. Not only did he not approve of gays, he didn’t want his son to be gay. He would have probably hit me if he knew I was a homosexual creating gay porn! So, I destroyed the photos almost in front of him, while saying — “The photos didn’t turn out and I would show him better work at another time.”
I was scared and freaked out. I knew I was self-censoring. But I also realised that if I was going to create erotic art that I would have to do it in secret. When Tom of Finland began drawing naked men, he also had to make his art in secret. I think most erotic artists learn to be very careful about choosing the right audience to exhibit their work to.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from people I know. I’ve been fortunate to see and meet many beautiful men in my life. Capturing their beauty and illustrating them in a unique way, is my goal.
What’s your creative process?
My creative process is different every time I paint. Sometimes an idea for a painting just pops in my head and I try to find model to pose for a photo to match my vision — that’s often the easiest route.
I rarely work from a live model. My paintings take so long to create — I often work all night on a painting — so, finding a model to sit for that long of a period and whenever I want them, is impossible. I use the photos of my models as reference.
Often, I look through hundreds of images and piece things together in a collage. It’s more like a jigsaw puzzle — lots of pieces missing, and my mind fills in those missing pieces with an arm from this model, the chest from another, the dick from another, the face from another, and so on, until I have the entire figure. But then I have to decide how the light and setting will pull all of those puzzle pieces together.
I have dozens of photos that are my references for every detail of plants, animals, rocks, furnishings. I sort through a constant mess of photos — gradually eliminating those references as my brain digests the information and my brush puts it on the canvas or paper.
The paintings that form the Beach Boys series are beautiful — what are some of the challenges in creating beach scenes like this?
Trying to find a balance between the setting and the model is always a challenge. I don’t want the model to overpower the beach, or the beach to feel more important than the model. I want my paintings to have a natural feeling, like you could be at the beach with my models.
Who are the men featured in the paintings of the Beach Boys series?
The men in my Beach Boy series are mostly friends that have modelled for me. Sometimes I find a photograph of a model that someone else has taken, that inspires me to use it as a reference pose to work from, then I find one of the photos of a beach that I’ve visited and I try to recreate a similar pose in a drawing that will eventually become a painting.
What do you hope that people feel when they look at your work?
I don’t want to just give the viewer of my art an erection, I want them to feel like they’re part of the painting, that they want to invite the men in my paintings into their homes, their beds, their dungeon, their car, their locker room, or the bushes for a hot fuck, butt licking, cock sucking, ass spanking good time.
I hope to excite the viewer visually, emotionally as well as spiritually. It’s my goal as an artist and sexually active gay man to paint erotica that continually challenges the views of people who oppose sexual freedom. If my paintings assist the viewer in discovering where they are in the spectrum of human sexuality, then my aim is reaching its target.
We want to hear your opinion
The neo-pop erotica of pop-porn
Five artists who aren’t afraid to get sexual.
Matt Myers, who creates art under the name Eronin, is the driving force behind Pop-Porn – a new show that will be presented in Brooklyn by the MF Gallery.
As well as work from Eronin, the show will also feature pieces from Fernando Carpaneda, Ellen Stagg, Martina Secondo Russo, and Anna Park – all exploring the theme of neo-pop erotica.
I caught up with Matt Myers for a behind-the-scenes look at what we can expect from Pop-Porn.
When did you start to see your work as Pop-Porn or Neo-Pop Erotica?
I think it was around 2012 – I was appropriating images of Japanese porn stars directly from film stills I captured myself. The close-up view of faces in ecstasy gave me a revelation that they stood up to any Andy Warhol portrait of a movie star or celebrity.
I deliberately treated these images taken from a low-brow source as High Art, just as many of the original Pop Artists did with common everyday items.
It was at that time I made a Pop-Art connection, but I didn’t label it as Pop-Porn or Neo-Pop Erotica until a few years ago.
How would you define or describe Pop-Porn or Neo-Pop Erotica?
Pop-Porn is the name I gave the show. It’s a simple, catchy, hyphenated name to bring two distinct cultural trends – Pop-Art and Porn, or Erotic art – into one realm.
I coined Neo-Pop Erotica as a movement by a wider range of erotic artists that use erotica in a Pop-Art style. Some artists working in this genre are well known and mainstream, like Ben Frost, John Currin, Mel Ramos, Lisa Yuskavage, and Thomas Ruff, while others are more or less on the fringe, like Delmas Howe, Victor Gadino, and John John Jesse.
You’ve invited four artists to present their work with you at this show – what are some of the threads that connect the work of the five of you?
I wanted to feature artists who use both explicit and implicit sexuality in their work, but not cookie-cutter images of penises and vaginas. I’ve been in many erotic shows in the US and early this year in London’s first erotic show, and I see a very low bar for inclusion.
I sought out artists who had very distinct styles and a great range from explicit to implicit.
Anna Park’s mysterious charcoals depict a hidden, dark sexuality – it’s more of a psychological erotica compared to Martina Secondo Russo’s Italian Bathing Beauties, that show a more visceral fleshy sensuality. Ellen Stagg forms a very close relationship with her models, many of whom are adult performers or fetish models, and it spills into her intimate depictions of them. Fernando is a veteran to erotic art, and finds very fascinating ways of combining his own punk counter-culture lifestyle with highly erotically charged art. My own work has close ties to Japanese Shunga from over a century ago, but is contemporary in my use of current Japanese porn stars.
While each of us work in very diverse styles, there is a common thread of being rooted in popular culture.
Is Pop-Porn the kind of work that is going to find a home on the wall of people’s homes? Or is there still an illicit edge to this style of art?
I think in the US especially, there is less tolerance for explicit art in the general public, in comparison to European, Latin, and Asian countries. Here in the US, sexuality is largely ignored and never emphasised in early education, condemned in religious and political circles, and rarely thought of as normal unless you pick up magazines promoting the fundamental joys of sex.
But there is a hardcore group of collectors who relish the open-minded free spirits of erotica and will buy it for their collections.
Fernando Carpaneda is widely sought after to collect his erotic sculptures and paintings, as well as Ellen Stagg for her mixed media and photography. My new watercolours will definitely raise some eye-brows because it crosses the barrier using more explicit sources.
Could these be hung prominently on the wall of people’s homes? Yes, to a small percentage of very dedicated erotica aficionados, but my goal in Pop-Porn is to raise erotic art up to a higher standard so it’s more acceptable.
How does Pop-Porn reflect the evolution of erotica and erotic art?
Just like Warhol, Wesselmann, Lichtenstein, Ramos, and Koons have drawn from everyday images from mass media and popular culture to create Pop-Art, Pop-Porn also draws from mass media, but from more provocative sources. It’s the goal of Pop-Porn to elevate what some consider as obscene, and transcend low-brow views of what is crude sexuality and what constitutes as valid art.
Titian, Klimpt, Courbet – some of the greatest masters of art – had to fight the social, political and religious doctrines that stifled the inherent beauty of eroticism. Pop-Porn is a platform that I hope will become a movement. I want to see it take off and become more of a trend in art, and just as acceptable as Pop-Art is to the general public.
What do you hope that people feel when looking at the collection of work presented at this exhibition?
I hope they will come with open minds and to open their minds. The owners of MF Gallery – Martina and Frank Russo – have long been defenders of counter-culture, therefore their patrons may already be wired to expect something unusual, but I’d like them to see and experience erotic art not as a novelty, but as part of a cultural movement. And, more importantly, an essential part of themselves.
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