Showcasing erotica is tricky business.
An interview with erotic artist Samarel.
Hm Samarel, whose first initials stand for a name he won’t reveal, is an internationally recognized erotic artist with a penchant for creating bold and intense images of the human form. Raised as a nice Jewish boy in Israel, he discovered his passion for drawing as a teenager, and established himself as a web and graphic designer before venturing into the sexualized market a decade ago. The irony – he hasn't yet shown his more libidinous creations in his home country, the one place in the Middle East where sexuality isn't subjugated to the realm of the taboo.
Not that he’s opposed to it, by any means, having admitted to me that he’d like to find the right curator in Israel. The problem may be the location. Just this weekend, we both attended the XXXpose art and dance show in Tel Aviv, and while there were a few good exceptions, the evening fell flat. Call it a combination of restricted lighting, too much smoke in the eyes, and a limited range of artworks, most of which were formulaic and dull; I just wasn't as impressed as I’d hope to be as someone who appreciates artistic tributes to the human form.
In any case, Samarel’s erotic artwork would have done a fine job of literally lighting up the event, but he opted out, and for sound reasons. (Many of those attending were salivating at the site of a thong-clad woman being painted by a guy in a metal-mesh shirt, presumably before she’d perform a tantalizing dance number in the cage. From my perspective, the idea of showcasing erotica in a fetish club seemed like a good idea in theory, but ultimately the two themes competed rather than complimented the art in the house. But I digress…)
I first glimpsed his work in Erotic Signatures, a collection of erotic art that is judged and selected on a yearly basis by a panel of experts in the art, fashion and erotica worlds. Now in its forth year, ES is the brain child of Fritz ‘e’, and features a wide range of styles and international artists, previously highlighted in my column.
As for Samarel, it’s impossible not to take note of his vibrant strokes of color juxtaposed against images of naked men and women, couples entwined in various stages of love making, private collection sensual portraits, and more adventurous images of lesbian sex and BDSM. Of the latter, he has written, “I have a great desire to see my hardcore art rather than the soft erotic, on some walls; whether it’s at a home, club or museum – all is fine by me. I would like for all this to happen while I’m still a LIVING artist.”
He defines himself as straight and says he appreciates female and male forms, but tries to keep his focus on the art rather than arousal. It may well be that his Jewish upbringing dispels with some of the shame that comes with growing up in a more restrictive cultures (including the puritanical roots that still inform American attitudes towards sexy art); he’s not phased or inhibited to showcase naked men or homo-erotic art.
“I got rid of many inhibitions while doing my hardcore erotic images of couples in 'f*cking' scenes...didn't have to do homo erotica to prove myself,” he shared with me. The reason he’s comfortable with erotica that spans a wide range is, in his words, because of his “love for the human body, of all genders and even ages.”
“Those male and homo erotic drawings I do are meant to catch the homo-lesbian (I also do lesbian art and i'm not a lesbian...) audience. This goes also for my BDSM style art. I don't actually LIVE this style but accept those who do.”
Still, he admits that his Jewish upbringing helps him ease into this aspect of his art.
“I remember attending the 'dirty show' in Detroit and talking to a large American audience wondering how puritans they can be in their daily lives and yet, so wild looking when they go out for this kind of an art show. However, we Israeli guys are wilder in our sex lives but still puritans with our art exhibitions...so is it better in America after all?” Who knows, he concludes.
Who indeed. As with all art, erotica is judged in the eye of the beholder. What one person finds attractive, stimulating or worthy of purchase may offend the next viewer or buyer, and finding new ways to introduce a growing audience – as the XXXpose event revealed – is part of the challenge beyond just producing truly worthy and memorable sexualized art.
Pulling it all together, I’ve come to one conclusion: showcasing erotica is tricky business.
By Tinamarie Bernard