The artist Balthus always pretended that his art was a spiritual pursuit of some obscure kind, asking us to ignore those prepubescent
girls showing off their panties. The larger question of course is was he an actual pedophile or just an artist who liked to act out his fantasies in paint. One thing is sure, he knew how to construct a sound picture, always coming up with a convincing conjunction of subject-matter and the formal arrangement that that young girl found herself.
Even though Balthus' Alice--as seen in my interpretations above and on the right--is clearly a grown woman, she nonetheless makes one tend to forget all the structural niceties of the painting by the sheer outrageousness of the conjunction of that skirt and those thighs.
Erotic art is problematic, as a host of feminists have pointed out. As a young artist growing up in the misogynist 1950s (yeah, blame it on the era) my depictions of women went off into nutty fantasy zones--women grappling with giant carrots, say, or having important biological parts merged with gourds or, more amiably, peppers. I excused these pictorial tantrums by espousing my love of the Surrealists, sidestepping the fact that the men of that group were not always particularly gentle on the female sex.
When I returned to the figure in the 1980s my depictions of female sexuality persisted despite having reached the age where I should have known better. To the relief of some, the women now might be placed within some art historical context--as in the two Millet take offs to the right--or submerged in a swarm of stylistic invasions, as in the cartoon copulation (it's a rutting Mussolini and his nurse from a very rude 1940s comic book) set within a Chinese/De Kooning environment, of all combinations. I'm not sure that any of this zaniness gains me any sympathy for those mortified or angered by pictures of sexualized women, but anyone steeped in their Freud has to admit that a nude Millet figure pumping away on a butter churner is at least mildly comic. Even the cow seems to be amused.
Starting at the top left of the page and moving clockwise: Alice (after Balthus), archival pigment print, acrylic and pencil, 2009; Alice (after Balthus), photograph, pigment print, 2009; Butter Churner (after Millet), acrylic on paper, 2002; Nude Millet Figure Carrying a Basket with Braque's Easel Behind, acrylic and pencil on canvas, 2000.
Prices for prints and modified prints range from $100 to $190. The paintings on paper are $250, The Mussolini is a large framed work that combines print sections with collage and painted areas. It sells for $550. Who'd have a wall big enough to accommodate the giant Advertisement For Myself I don't know. But you can have it for a mere $2500.
Mussolini Nears Nirvana, acrylic, collage over archival pigment print , mounted on board, framed, 2016, 32x21
Advertisement For Myself, acrylic, pencil, charcoal and collage on canvas, 2013 and 2015, 55x96
Who else will cheer me on, if not this cheerleader found painted on a storefront window in downtown Buffalo, NY? She will give Balthus a run for his money in the panties department.
Bikini Girl, enamel and collage, 1961, 10x12, framed
Note that date: 1961!
And they said I wasn't an early Pop artist
Left: Leda and the Two Ducks, pigment print with projecting cutout, 2000.
Right: Comparison Demonstration with Smirking Mask, archival
pigment print. 2002, altered 2014, 16x12
Left: Porno Woman with Obscuring geometry and Chinese Flowers, photograph, archival pigment print and collage mounted on board, 2015,
The question with this shy maiden to the left and the two competing lasses above right is: Is my smart, highly artful presentation and keen spatial finesse enough to soften the blow of seeing pornographic imagery take its place in the sacrosanct realm of high art?
Nana and the Elders, acrylic over archival pigment print, 2021, 12x15.
(The appearance of Larry David in this lust-fest was purely accidental.) .