Sex and the… studio

What connects a New York Observer column with Georgia O’Keefe and mixed media painting?

Depending on your age you probably remember “Sex and the City”, a TV sensation based on Candace Bushnell’s confessional column ? Could you forget 90s TV at its best (or worst)?

Not that I’m being sensationalist – well, maybe a tad – but I must confess I’ve been musing on the relationship between creativity and sensuality of late.

So, just wondering… should we talk about it?! 

This train of thought was partly triggered as I supported my 11-year-old son with his Georgia O’Keefe art project. He had to create a flower close-up and of course I leapt on the opportunity to dig deeper and introduce him to an art hero. We inevitably got to the bit about female genitalia, which I didn’t try to dodge, but he visibly cringed at…

Actually, O’Keefe resented the comparison too. But there’s many clues in her story that point to the vital relationship between sensuality and her art. (Not least that she had a virile young lover/studio assistant in the last years of her life.) He was more than half her age!

Yet O’Keefe also craved aloneness and the desert experience. She seemed to require this for her art-making as her work shows… think of the empty wild desert spaces as well as the equally empty immersive florals. 

It’s complex, isn’t it? Swings (excuse the pun) and roundabouts.

My confession: I experienced a bout of sexual incontinence in my 30s. I was a bit of a Samantha Jones type. And it’s no coincidence that I wasn’t expressing myself through art at this time…

Because, let’s face it, the act of making art is sensual.

There’s a lushness to slapping on big globules of paint, the falling drips and shocks of vibrant colour or subtle allure of tints and shades. And in our process we layer and layer, building anticipation and depth – at some point we have to bring it all to a conclusion. We need to know when it’s reached its peak. Some days it’s a struggle; some days it pours from us, easily exciting and moving us. Or we let it stay in our playful sketchbooks, teasing and tempting us back into making more. 😉

But in this way, art can impinge on our personal lives. I’m sure my family, and particularly my partner, often find me very distracted in the home. Because art making doesn’t just stay in the studio. It plays on our minds, we’re always reading and researching for our work, and it’s often what we fall asleep thinking about or the first thing we wake up to. Sometimes it even keeps us awake at night. It’s then I have a lightbulb moment – doh! – there are more ways than one to get a sensual fix and thankfully that way helps us get back to sleep too! 😉

Hang on! It’s not *really* about sex, is it?!

I don’t think it was *really* about sex for Carrie Fisher (Candace?!) in Sex and the City either. Art and sensuality are both about about creating meaning and connectivity in our lives. As such, our art-making has to be sustainable and we mustn’t neglect our relationships outside the studio. 

We can easily loose ourselves in the work – sometimes that’s a big help if we’ve lost someone or our personal circumstances have changed. But either way, it all starts with love and connection… After all, my strong bond with my amazing partner and the stability that came from finding a soulmate enabled me to fully open the doors to a creative life.

It was only with the security blanket of love and family, that I started printmaking then painting in a serious way.

So for me – and many of us? –  it’s about finding a balance. We should remind ourselves to stay connected to those dear to us – the loving Aiden types over the detached and now disgraced Mr Big. Not forgetting the little guys who we do Georgia O’Keefe art projects with. Yay!

IMAGE: courtesy of my lovely 11 year old, a photo taken for his art project.

Read about Candace Bushnell here:

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