“Is it art or is it porn?” Humans have been asking this question since the first Neanderthal scrawled an anatomically-correct cave-painting. More recently, Sue-Kim Steele Green’s sensual illustrations reminded me just how much erotic art is on offer across Sussex (if you know where to look that is.)
Aubrey Beardsley is perhaps Sussex’s best known erotic artist, depicting iconic figures including Lysistrata, who ended a war by asking women to go on sex strike until their lovers negotiated peace. His atmospheric, monochrome illustrations still influence many erotic artists today.
Eric Gill, creator of classic British font Gill Sans, is also known for his sexually explicit wood-prints of angels. He also kept detailed notes of every sex act he engaged in, both alone and with men and women.
A 1989 biography revealed a more frightening side to his sexuality; in his diaries, he admitted to abusing his eldest daughters and committing incest with his sister, raising the question of whether the art can be separated from the artist. Gill lived in both Ditchling and Preston Park.
Brighton’s erotic art gallery, Impure, is renowned for its contentious showcases, best of all Jamie McCartney’s ‘Great Wall of Vagina’, featuring 400 plaster casts of women’s nether regions.
And McCartney is far from the only contemporary erotic artist in Sussex. Michelle Mildenhall from East Sussex is pioneer of the ‘latex art’ genre, exploring the increasingly popular world of fetish.
Worthing-based artist, Darren West (neonartist.co.uk), creates provocative pieces blown in neon glass, from fallen angels to slogans such as ‘No boundaries, no regrets’ and ‘Dirty and Sweet’. West gained international acclaim when he worked with the Amy Winehouse Foundation.
Should you wish to get your hands dirty, Sussex boasts erotic photographers galore. Bognor-based NortybutNice (www.nortybutnice.co.uk) offer boudoir photography, complete with (optional) makeovers.
If your tastes are a little more ‘Fifty Shades’, Dream Visions (www.dream-visions.co.uk) on the Surrey/West Sussex border has a space to help you capture your ultimate acquiescence (or domination.) Hire is £30 per hour, and includes a St Andrew’s cross, cage, gym horse and stocks along with floggers, crops, canes and paddles!
So is it art or is it porn? Sussex will certainly help you decide.
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