Lust Life: Sex Imitates Art


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Recently my ex-boyfriend sent me an art catalog in the mail. “Thought you should have this—you will not hear from me again,” read the attached post-it note. I recognized myself on the glossy cover, an abstract figure with Egyptian posture, my flaming red hair flattened against my head in thick orange crayon-like strokes, my face tilted upward in shadow. The image recalled feelings and thoughts that now, more than a year after we broke up, seem as abstract as his paintings. Yet he captured me in a way in which no one else did. He painted my moods before I expressed them. He painted what I couldn’t tell him. He painted our separation before either of us knew it was coming.


I’ve dated a lot of artists. Probably 90 percent of my lovers have been either professional artists or fascinating dilettantes. For me, a relationship without an artistic connection is like sex without chemistry: dull, flat and mechanical. And sex without chemistry is like bad art: forced strokes that inspire nothing but rolling eyes. Creative people are creative in every context, and sex is no exception. Musicians and dancers have rhythm and timing. Actors like to play. Painters and poets tend to be the most sensual and detail-oriented, like my ex, who turned me into a canvas and painted my body with his tongue.

What is an artist without a muse? The dynamic between artist and muse is erotic whether or not sex is involved. I was an art model for three years. Posing nude for classrooms of strangers inspired erotic poetry and thoughts of exhibitionism. I wrote in a poem: Choosing to strip without de-veiling, choosing to draw without failing into reality: the charcoal sweeps shouldn’t look like me, exactly, but they are still me. I wondered if the students had lewd thoughts about me—of course they did. I interviewed some on the topic and the consensus was, “Yes. It’s inevitable. Especially if the model is attractive.” My ex—I’ll just call him Picasso—is a teacher at a leading New York art school. We met when I posed for his class and our attraction was instant. He asked me if I would pose for him, privately. As I lay on the tattered couch in his studio, I was high on the awareness that every time he looked at me, he was seeing what lovers see, and yet all he was doing was painting me. All he was doing was transforming me into art while I was thinking about him licking my twat, and the idea that my arousal could be perceived in a brush stroke was more erotic than the fantasy itself.

I enjoy being a muse. It’s an empowering role to play. Throughout every one of my artistic affairs, I was conscious that I was a source of inspiration, and that at any moment something I produced could be immortalized. A gesture, look or mood has the potential to become a masterpiece. Once Picasso and I became passionately involved, I felt as if the orchestration of our relationship was an art, and the art itself (his paintings, my words) evolved as we did. He gave me erotic sketches, and I emailed him poetic excerpts from my journal. Our creations competed for our attention like a third lover: “I can’t see you tonight, I’m writing” or “Can I call you later? I need to paint.” When two artists have a romantic relationship, the art is just as important as the couple, perhaps even more so. Lovers come and go, but the art stays.

Whatever the medium, nothing heightens eroticism like artistic romance. It bleeds into every intent and emotion and sensation. It opens up the mind and body to the vast spectrum of erotic experience, from coy flirtation to orgiastic madness. No wonder so many artists are into sexual experimentation; you have to be intuitive, curious and willing to take risks to be an artist as well as a libertine. But not all artists are as sexually free as they could be. Picasso wasn’t a huge fan of my polyamorous nature. I can see this point of contention in his final portrait of me. I’m standing in front of a window like Mona Lisa, my mouth tightly closed, my eyes locked in a blank gaze, looking askew at an elusive thought. I hold a restless feline in my lap while fish float behind my head … He started this painting before we broke up and even then it seemed to know more than we did. Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” I would add that sex imitates art far more than art imitates sex. Picasso drew me as a horny cat, and look what I’ve become.


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