Erotic Symbolism in Visual Art


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Mini-Tutorial: Erotic Symbolism in Visual Art

by Michael Newberry

NOTE FROM MSK: The actual tutorial has been removed at the request of Michael Newberry. The link to the tutorial on his site remains in the title above. I highly recommend you go there and go through it. Here is a small quote from it:

O'Keeffe, 1923, Grey Line with Black, Blue, and Yellow

Representational painting, such as landscapes, people, and furniture, is normally viewed at face value. A flower is just a flower; a chair a chair. But the manner in which an artist uses shapes can convey more than the literal content of the painting.

Once you grasp how an artist plays with shapes to convey another layer of meaning it can open up a universe of deeper insight and, sometimes, powerfully erotic subtexts. You may never see art again in the same way.

When thinking about erotic symbolism in art Georgia O'Keeffe springs to mind. The painting to the right is a detail of a flower but it is also an excellent visual symbol of an open and flushed vulva.

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There certainly are erotic symbols in art, but there are also people who focus a little too much on "finding" such symbolism in every art work that they come across (and, if you're one of them, my use of "come across" here isn't meant as erotic symbolism). I think it was something that was heavily preached in art schools in the 70s -- almost everyone I know who got their visual arts education then tends to like pointing out all of the pee pees and wee wees that they can spot in a work of art (sort of a "Where's Dildo?" game for them, I guess), and contemplating the artist's hang ups with sex.

Images of umbrellas can cause riots among 70s artsy folks, as some see them as representing male bits where others see female bits (depending on how open the umbrella is), and they'll argue about it for hours and hours until they're all out of 70s words and theories.

Sometimes a chimney is just a chimney, and a canoe is just a canoe.

J

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There certainly are erotic symbols in art, but there are also people who focus a little too much on "finding" such symbolism in every art work that they come across [...].

Sometimes a chimney is just a chimney, and a canoe is just a canoe.

Georgia O'Keeffe, who's one of my very, very, very favorites, claimed that she had none of the erotic symbolism intent and meanings in mind which people have seen in her paintings. I'm prepared to take her word for it; nonetheless, I've always seen a number of her flower and other shapes as highly sensual in a suggestive of female genitalia way.

Ellen

PS: I've been wondering when O'Keeffe might make a showing in these art discussions. There's no entry for O'Keeffe in the index of Torres and Kamhi's What Art Is, btw (nor, as I mentioned earlier on another thread, for Escher).

PPS: I do believe that Newberry has spelled her name wrong, incidentally. It's double f.

___

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I like Georgia O'Keeffe too. I put the big cloud painting up in the art gallery. Hopefully, it is not full of subliminal sexual messages as I used to have a poster of it in Inky's room when she was a little girl. I do hope I haven't corrupted the child. :blink:

Kat

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I'm looking at the hits to see if this effort is being read. I am satisfied for this kind of work.

I wonder why the tutorial on Erotic Symbolism got double hits and comments, though...

Something to do with human nature?

Hmmmmmmm....

:)

Michael

(EDIT - Ellen, I corrected the spelling. He got at least one right.)

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