Take a moment to ponder this question—what makes art erotic?
For many, there are plenty of qualities that can constitute eroticism. This may include seeing the full exposure or partial concealment of the body. Or the display of submissive silence or extreme passion. Maybe it’s a reference toward a vivid sexual encounter or a coy intimate embrace. One thing is for certain—-art is made erotic by the basic human instinct of arousal. Depending on the viewer, it is partly a state of mind, and partly a state of being.
Whatever the case, erotic art always seems to cause a ruckus. Rashly criticized as an easy way to draw attention to one’s art or an exhibitionist ploy for attention, bare bodies and sexual innuendoes are often a point of contention for both critics and viewers alike. There is a fine line between artistry and exploitative eroticism, and it is a blurry one. Ultimately, the intentions of the artist and the emotional subtleties communicated by the work itself should determine its merit.
In the case of Carolyn Weltman’s fine art, presenting issues of gender, sexuality, and relationships is the goal. Her desire to construct sensual works of art inspires her to paint a menagerie of subjects. Some provocative and some simply natural. We reached out to Carolyn Weltman for an interview, and she revealed that “eroticism is found in the little corner of my heart.”
Meet the 2015 Liberator Holiday Artist, Carolyn Weltman.
Weltman: As a Fine Artist, I consider myself to be an expressive, figurative painter whose work includes female, male, transgender, and transitioning subjects. My works include nudes and fetish art. My job, as an artist, is to present issues—-the issues of gender, issues of sexuality, issues of relationships.
Liberator: What are some of the challenges or stereotypes you have had to overcome in making an erotic piece in your own voice?
Weltman: In my mind, I have only one voice—mine. However, those who know my work without knowing me often label me as a man, a lesbian, a bosomy blond and disgusting. I get a lot of disgusting. As long as I cause a reaction, I have no problem with these labels because any reaction means I have done my job as an artist and made the viewer think. My biggest challenge, however, is probably getting gay men to buy my paintings. They love them until they discover a woman painted them. We are the products of our environments.
Weltman: I am self taught and like to experiment. So, I combine different media into the same work(s). I prefer to work a lot with oils, gesso, enamels, and I love to draw with pencil, charcoal, and sometimes, inks. Every piece of my work is created differently. I even combine digital for many of my works. (Sometimes I work with charcoal straight onto a larger piece or a canvas.)
The eroticism is found in a little corner of my heart. There are very few things I do not find erotic. Mostly religious extremists of all colors, all races. Love of my fellow humans is my theme. Fetish, because that is what all humans divulge in—in some form or another. Often without even realizing that they are participating. Erotic, because the erotic is everywhere and has everything to do with our many senses. Pornographic sometimes, because I have to live, and therefore, I create sometimes to sell rather than from the heart—which is the true meaning behind pornography. Kind of like a day job. Eroticism is not my primary intent, it is just embedded into everything I do. Everything that most people do unconsciously. There are many topics I also love to draw and paint. Horses, basketball players, strange self portraits and seagulls because they make me laugh are just a few. And when you look at my other works, you will (hopefully) understand the link between them all and find them just as erotic as the obviously sexual pieces.
Most artists flirt with erotic art because erotic art is all about our sexual identities. Artists, possibly more than our left brained friends, do not separate our bodies from our spirituality, minds, creativity and sexuality. Therefore, I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision. I see my work as more sensual than erotic, but I do live with it daily. Perhaps I’m a latent Dadaist and have great joy in expressing my sexual being through my art because I am shy in my relationships. I do think my work is as much about gender and sex and self-awareness as it is erotic. And Dada is, after all, all about contradiction.
Weltman: Without hesitation, suspension and bondage (fetish) works. There is no helplessness in bondage and suspension. There is power and there is submission. This applies to the model and the rigger, as well as myself in the role of the artist. All fetish and sexual activities are about power by consent. My models love to fly. And all bondage and suspension works are to do with movement or the perceived lack of movement. The art of perpetual motion. From my artist’s statement, “Consider the exquisite kinesis, the throb of a body captured in bondage, and compare to it the exuberant trajectories of the trapeze artist, glorious dancers in air. Draw them both into the perfectly disciplined stop-motions of the danseuse or the athlete. Sense all of it in the break of a fallen boxer’s breath as taut muscles pause to reignite. All slices of stilled, economical motion, exploring the inner idea, the corporeal feeling, and the outer expression, all outside of time.”
I’m also fascinated by and in doing a lot of research with and about transgenders and transsexuals of all denominations. I strongly believe there are many sexes and not the two our modern society would have us believe.
Liberator: We notice that a lot of your subjects do not have defined facial features, or they are obscured. But the knots on the rope, or the rope work itself is extremely detailed, even the tattoos of the model. Can describe why faces are not included?
Weltman: Some of my works do have faces, for instance The Poet. However, I began not drawing and painting faces when I sold my work on the street. I made the discovery that it was less intimidating for women and men could use their ever active imaginations to make the image into whomever they liked. I’ve always preferred to express my models through their movements and the way they hold themselves. Honestly, I’ve never realized that I provided detailed work on ropes and tattoos. It must be subconscious. 🙂
Liberator: When looking at your couple’s themed images there appears to be this extremely intimate connection. How does that feel when creating such a connection through art?
Weltman: My models create the intimate connection with each other. I see myself merely as the recorder of their events.
Liberator: Tell us a little bit about your studio. What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
Weltman: Indispensable. The sunlight. And me.
My studio is tiny and shared with my living quarters. My bed is pushed into a corner and doubles as a platform for my models. I can’t paint anything HUGE because I do not have the room. But I have the sunlight and all the equipment I need. The only space I keep for myself is my bathroom. Even my tiny kitchen is given over to painting paraphernalia.
Liberator: You mentioned being shunned by the feminist community. In your opinion, what is it about your work that makes them so uncomfortable?
Weltman: Feminists believe this, “Female identity is often formed and realized through the male gaze, and it is usually depicted to appeal to male fantasies. As a consequence, women have often become asexual, believing this would warrant equality. This resulted in the division of femininity and sexuality.” I do not believe this and portray all of my subjects with an open mind and an openness to their gender. I also pay homage to all genders being both submissive and dominant.
Liberator: We mentioned in a previous email that women in art are under-represented, especially the erotic realm. Why do you think men get more attention for their erotic works? Do you think that if your work was labeled under a male moniker, the reception to it would be different?
Weltman: “Women are incapable of greatness” John Stuart Mill.
Probably best not to get me started on this topic. There’s just too much evidence and too much research to be done. Suffice it to say that women have pretended to be men over the ages and many serious Collectors will not pay for women’s art.
I have often been told to represent myself as a man in order to sell my male figures. I refuse to do this even though I’m probably banging my head on the proverbial wall. I firmly believe that I should own everything I do.
Weltman: Painting, “Will You Still Love Me?” One of the most challenging and controversial of my paintings, it is a deeply personal painting that took me several months to complete. I started it the night I returned home from my first solo show in New York which was heavily attended. I am a shy person (as is my character in the painting) and do not do well in crowds. Especially when the focus is on me. The painting is about being focused on and about being tied up in our own egos and self-worth. It is about the way society treats those who they do not fully understand or who do not meet the, “norm”. It is about our own feelings of self-worth. Sometimes I felt as though this painting painted itself. She is cut above her breasts which is a practice that many indulge in to feel the physical pain in order to lessen the pain of the heart.
Liberator: What did it feel like to first show your work? What was the response?
Weltman: Very emotional.
Liberator: As an artist, do you collect anything?
Weltman: I really do try not to. My preference would be to live in a very simple and uncluttered environment. I guess you’d call me a minimalist in my choice of life style although looking around my studio that would be hard to believe.
Liberator: What would you tell your younger self today? What kind of advice would you give to a young female artist looking toward a career as an erotic artist?
Weltman: My encouragement to any artist of any gender and any age is to, “follow their dreams.” To not be discouraged by rejection and move on to the next opportunity. Always remember, rules are made to be broken and to paint for themselves and not for the public.
To learn more about Carolyn Weltman and to purchase prints, please click here.