Last summer, when I added my painting, “Hard Feelings,” to my website, I remember thinking, “For all the space that sex takes up in my head, it doesn’t seem to come up in my artwork very often.” That’s because (like EVERYONE) I have a hard time talking about sex without certain reservations.
But I write about everything! I’m an open fucking book! Right?!? People always tell me how they admire the honesty and vulnerability of my art and writing. But if I was so honest and vulnerable, why was one of my biggest preoccupations almost totally absent from my art? Why was I so hesitant to talk about sex – directly and bluntly?
(‘Cause it’s not fucking easy!)
I resolved to push myself to do it anyway. After all, each of these paintings is a reflection of what’s going on in my head as I’m making them. If they’re silent on sex, that means I’m holding back and not being the artist I wanna be.
In late January, I broke up with my girlfriend and gave up my house to live on the road, traveling between cities, meeting with galleries, and pursuing art 100% full-time. BEST DECISION EVER. Right from the start, I was getting back everything I was putting in and then some. In February, my biggest painting yet went up in Ettra, a gallery in Delray Beach. When I got word that it had sold in March, I drove right back down to drop off my two newest paintings and to (while there) paint a third that I’d also leave behind. It’s called “How to Bed a Girl When Your Bed is in a Minivan” and – like any piece that I put more than forty hours into – it’s got a few things going on…
First and foremost, it’s a celebration of my excitement – of my life in general, of how well things had been going. The text at the top right of the canvas:
I'm on a public street, darting around my canvas (practically dancing with it), sometimes singing along to the weird punk rock spewing outta my little speaker. (I'm sure I look insane). But I'm getting away with it. None of it matters. Because "I'M A FUCKING ARTIST, GUYS." I'm quoting myself - AND GETTING AWAY WITH IT! (Because I'm an artist). I can use pick up lines like, "Hey, girl - play your cards right and you could be fuckin' in my minivan." I GET AWAY WITH ALL THIS AND MORE!! 'Cause art. And my BEAUTIFUL SOUL. Though it would be cool to have running water too… Keep reachin' for that dream, Sam!
Or below that:
I'm really happy. I got what I wanted. A new city each day. I've got the recurring guest role. No one knows me too well. Every interaction is a first. I tell my stories to fresh audiences every day. I am the recipient of a constant stream of praise and affection. […] I love what I do, I believe in myself, I know what I want, and I fucking get after it and make it happen. This is my life and I fucking love it.
The glee in those statements is also sort of what this painting’s title and center caption are about… How do you bed a girl when your bed’s in a minivan??? YOU PAINT BIG FUCKING PAINTINGS THAT LOOK REALLY COOL, SELL FOR A LOT OF MONEY, AND SHOWCASE YOUR WIT, CHARM, AND COMPLEXITY – BOTH AS A HUMAN BEING AND AN ARTIST.
Or (as the aforementioned center caption reads):
I'm not sure if you noticed but I'm SUPER talented… And such a FASCINATING fucking character… Pull up a chair and I'll talk AT you about how god damn special I am!
That’s meant to be funny but it is word-for-word almost exactly something I said to a girl just a few weeks prior. And something I was continuing to say to other girls. Successfully! Which – in addition to everything happening with my art – was genuinely exciting. I had this new confident attitude / approach that (ridiculous as it may be) was totally justified. I don’t care if this comes across as arrogant ’cause it’s taken me twenty-eight years to feel this way; I am talented and I am a fascinating character (oh -and yeah – I fucking talk about myself a lot). Now, if I were the only person saying those things, well… that’d be one thing. But I’m not. I hear that stuff from other people every day.
SO – if that’s the case then why do I need to say it at all? Well, ’cause – Look! Over there! It’s a girl I want to have sex with! TONIGHT! …And since I’m not SUPER FAMOUS just yet – well – how’s she gonna know unless I tell her??
Which is where this painting takes a little bit of a sad turn (and where the whole “I’m afraid to talk about sex” thing comes full circle). If I really believe in myself, then why am I still trying to find validation through sex, other kinds of attention from girls, and (sometimes) even love? And I’m (apparently) so preoccupied with those thoughts that one of my two biggest pieces now is (essentially) an announcement to the world that (while I may live out of a van) “I GET LAID ALL THE TIME!” When I stop to consider how prominent sexual content’s been in almost all of my art these last three months, I can’t help but ask myself if I’m really still just pushing myself to be honest or if there is some component of “bragging” to this. Am I basing a (potentially) large piece of my self-worth on how many girls I can sleep with (and how many people know about it)?
I think it’s both. My art is about my life and sex is part of that. Especially now: this is the first time I’ve ever been committed to not having a girlfriend. Since I was seventeen, I’ve gone from one relationship to the next. Maybe it’s fair to say that I’m just taking advantage of and enjoying the freedom that comes with my itinerancy right now.
There are two separate blocks of text near the top of the canvas that, I feel, well-represent that dichotomy. While both are honest, I think their presence in this painting is consequent of two very different motives. The first says:
I slapped her in the face. Not hard. Playfully. Her eyes lit up. "I'll hit you back," she said. I smiled. "I'd like to see you try." I hit her again and pinned her arms down. Thrust into her harder and deeper. She winced in pain. "Oh - you know what I like to hear!" I said. She looked at me, bright-eyed again, and told me I was a piece of shit. "Yes! Exactly like that! Keep going!" I HAVE FUN.
Why’s that in my painting? Well ’cause it had just happened, it was on my mind, and I was pretty pleased with myself. But, more to the point, I can also see and acknowledge that I intended it as bait – for girls that would read something like that and get turned on. And, in that sense, it feels a little less genuine.
The text just to the left of it (I think) ought to count for a little redemption. Not only is it sincere but it made me feel so vulnerable that I initially wrote it in black ink on top of black paint. I didn’t want anyone to be able to read it. It was only later that I got the courage to rewrite it in an area where it’d actually be legible. It says:
SOMETIMES I don't want sex to be all that rough but I talk such a depraved, fucked up game that I feel like I'm always under pressure to live up to it.
There’s a lot more going on (and even a lot more text) scattered across the canvas, but I think this stuff gets at the crux of the piece, so I’ll leave the rest to be sought out and interpreted without me.