• Sex has been depicted graphically throughout art history, from Pedastic Greek vases to Japanese shunga prints, but no artist has addressed the subject in quite the same way as Andrew Carr. His latest series, Painting a Day Porn (paintingadayporn.blogspot.com), is discussed in the following interview, which took place in his Washington, D.C. studio apartment, March 6, 2015.

    Graham Nightingale: What is the Painting a Day movement?

    Andrew Carr: A few years ago, artists began painting small works, typically still lifes, that were completed in a day. They were posted on various internet blogs, which subsequently became quite popular. So many artists began doing it that it became this mini-movement. Now a days, its not uncommon for this type of work to sell online for a few hundred bucks.

    GN: How has this movement inspired your current series?

    AC: Well, I've always found the Painting a Day movement rather silly and I thought it would be more appropriate if, instead of painting teacups and spoons, I painted pornography.

    GN: What is silly about the movement to you?

    AC: Just the way these artists will pump out work to sell. Its not like they're investing a lot of effort in poetic substance or style. The work is quickly produced and easily consumed, just like porn. To me, it's cheap disposable art. The whole thing insults the dignity of painting.

    GN: And painting pornography doesn't?

    AC: There's more to this series than just porn.

    GN: How so?

    AC: The series may mock the movement, but it's also a statement on how ubiquitous pornography is today, as well as a revealing insight into my own sexual fantasies.

    GN: This seems to fall in line with some of your past series, which satirizes a type of art, but also reveals a deeper, more insightful truth about today's culture. What is it about porn, in this particular era, that captured your attention?

    AC: When I was a kid, before the internet, you were limited to whatever dirty magazine or video you could find hidden in your parents closet. Then the internet came along and the stimulus for masturbation suddenly became endless. I wanted this series to capture my generations enormous appetite for porn.

    GN: Or addiction.

    AC: In some cases. It's not surprising though, when 1/3rd of the internet can satisfy any personal fantasy. It's free and instant dopamine. Just think of all the different ways humans can now pleasure themselves digitally.

    GN: Can you provide some examples?

    AC: Sure. You have sites like Xtube which allows normal people to upload homemade sex tapes. Sites like Chat Roulette allows complete strangers to masturbate to each other through webcams. Blogs like Tumblr provide an endless scroll of pictures or giffs. On top of all the free content, clip sites like Youporn and Porn Hub allow profiles, comments, and video view counts.

    GN: We've also seen mass masturbation experiences like The Fappening.

    AC: How could I forget? I'm hoping that the 365 paintings will somehow reflect the abundance or pornography today.

    GN: With so much content available, how do you decide what images to paint?

    AC: Before I paint each day, I'll visit Cliphunter or 8tube or whatever site I'm in the mood for and choose a video that I find stimulating. I thought about painting some vomit or cartoon porn just to be more shocking, but I wanted to explore what genuinely turns me on.

    GN: So what type of porn are you typically drawn to?

    AC: I tend to prefer amateur stuff. It's such a turn on when I really believe that two people are filming themselves have sex. I also love the poor quality of the videos. No lighting, no soundtrack, no cameraman. Just two people fucking their brains out. And I'm allowed into their private little world thanks to the magic of the internet. They may not be the most glamorous couple, but I'm painting real people engaged intimately.

    GN: I suppose these can be considered genre paintings then; paintings of everyday life. Do you paint any orchestrated sexual acts as well?

    AC: Not unless I find the actress incredibly hot. There are, of course, a handful of famous videos that I didn't want to leave out; the ones that every guy in America has jerked off to at one point or another. There really is an enormous audience for this type of imagery, mostly male, and I'm hoping that a few of them will actually have the courage to purchase a piece.

    GN: So you do think these will sell, despite their graphic nature?

    AC: I can't understand why they wouldn't. The imagery is so stimulating, that its actually causing humans to orgasm, which is one of the most powerful emotional states humans experience without drugs. You'd think they'd want to experience that sensation, or at least think about it, after the fact.

    GN: Perhaps they're embarrassed to contemplate those states of euphoria after they subside?

    AC: If that's the case, I hope this series will get them to question why they're nervous about sharing publicly, or considering privately, what they enjoy intimately. What is so scandalous about displaying imagery that we lust over in private? Why do people want to relive the beauty of a sunset but not the intense pleasure of viewing a sexual act?

    GN: Regardless of the imagery, which some may find offensive, I have to admit that I find all of these paintings beautifully executed. Do you think it's possible for viewers to appreciate these on a purely aesthetic level?

    AC: I hope so. These were my first serious attempts at painting the nude figure and I'm very proud of the results. I doubt they'll ever hang in a museum though, despite the quality.

    GN: Unless, of course, it's the Naples National Archaeological Museum. I think these would hang quite nicely in the Gabinetto Segreto along with all of the erotic Pompeii artifacts.

    AC: [laughs] Yes, I suppose. But that's an exception, and it took something like 70 years before curators finally decided to allow the public access! Most museums will permit nudity, but rarely, if never, display images of explicit sexual acts.

    GN: It's an interesting fine line. A man recently sued Facebook for blocking his account after posting Courbet's the Origin of the World, a painting depicting a women's vagina. He claimed that Facebook failed to differentiate between pornography and art. In your opinion, when does nudity become pornography?

    AC: I don't think I even have to enter that debate. Most artists will defend graphic work by saying, "It's not pornography, it's art." I, on the hand, am not denying it. My work is pornography, as well as art. To me, they're not separated. I'm just hoping others will agree.

    GN: There are at least private collectors who don't mind erotic imagery. Whether its dirty prints by Rembrandt or Utamaro, graphic paintings by John Currin or Cecily Brown, raunchy photographs by Dash Snow or Thomas Ruff, sex sells in the art world.

    AC: That's true, but those artists you mentioned are name brands. And as long as art has a status name or history attached to it, it doesn't matter how vulgar the subject matter is; the art world will buy. Right now, I'm nobody, which forces people to purchase my work on the quality of idea and execution alone. Once again, I'm not trying to appeal to the art world. I'm trying to get normal people to consider art - or to rethink the art they already collect.

    GN: Well if you ever become a brand name, I can see these becoming very collectible. Being part of the 365 day club or something. What date do you own? That sort of thing.

    AC: [laughs] Having collectors lust over these paintings seems even more appropriate. They may go for big bucks one day, but right now you can own one for only $300-$600 dollars; a fair price considering the size of the work.

    GN: I've been meaning to ask you about that. The majority of the work is painted on 8x10 or 8x14 canvases. Why did you choose to work on such a small scale?

    AC: I wanted the work to feel intimate. Masturbation is usually done in private and these were intended to be viewed by just one person. They wouldn't work on a grandiose Bierdstadt scale.

    GN: And what about the titles? You always seem to choose unique ones for your work, whether it's an announcers rambling description of game show prizes or urban dictionary definitions.

    AC: The title is the last opportunity to add to the piece - a cherry on top sort of thing - and I always try do something fun with it. Generic titles like, "Man at Table" are such wasted opportunities. For this particular series, It seemed appropriate to use the actual porn clip titles, spelling errors and all. Not only are they amusing to read, but they also allows viewers to hunt down the actual videos, if they're curious.

    GN: Most pornography is often viewed secretly behind closed doors. Was it difficult knowing that you'd be sharing your sexual preferences publicly?

    AC: I was a little hesitant at first, but I'm not into anything too weird, and there's really no reason to be ashamed of what you desire. I was more worried about consequences that may affect my career in the future.

    GN: Like what?

    AC: Well I enjoy teaching children how to draw and paint, and I was worried this series would frighten off concerned parents. I'm also interested in portraiture and this series may scare off "respectable" commissions.

    GN: Did you consider showing the work under an alias?

    AC: I considered that, but in the end, realized there was nothing to be ashamed of. It's not like I'm some creepy pervert; I'm simply shining a spotlight on something everyone is looking at today.

    GN: Many artists have dabbled in erotica at some point or another. Even Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl wrote adult work for playboy.

    AC: My favorite is Seward Johnson's X rated sculptures for that prince. I just can't believe he took that commission given his family friendly PG image.

    GN: Before we wrap things up, I have just one more question which may relate to the series. How's your sex life?

    AC: [laughs] Well, I just broke up with my girlfriend of 6 years, so sex is definitely on my mind. It's probably the reason why I started this series. I followed her down to DC in the hopes of winning her back. I didn't have a studio to work on anything large. I had lots of left over scraps of canvas. I was watching a lot of porn and I needed to make some money. The timing for this series just seemed right. I could afford to be scandalous because I had nothing to lose. Emotionally, it's probably the lowest I've ever felt in my life, and you can't go much lower than painting porn.