Tag: Hi-Fructose

"Absolutely Gorgeous Women": Lowbrow Art and Female Castration

by on Mar.29, 2011

Some weeks ago, I found myself involved in a brief Facebook exchange with a Hi-Fructose-featured artists Conrad Roset and some of his audience. I, like many others, was drawn to his visually striking and technically proficient explorations of the dynamics between sexuality and violence, power and submission, pleasure and pain. The post received a record number of “likes” on Hi-Fructose’ Facebook page.
If the gushfest in the comment stream is in any way indicative of the public response, the audience mostly agreed with the magazine’s effusive write-up (authored by Zach Tutor): “Roset fills his pieces with absolutely gorgeous women, who glow with a sexual intensity so thick that it can only be described as something created from passion itself. Their looks are mysteriously endearing, catapulting the viewer into an ecstasy only rivaled by the endlessly bright colors Roset splashes carefully amongst the scenes.”

Lovely. Now, once we’re all done jerking off, let’s take a second look. I, for one, am much less enthusiastic about these portraits. To begin with, I find the nudes woefully traditional and uninspired. Despite their (not terribly convincing) facial expressions, their poses are centuries-old clichés of female submission to the male gaze, a phrase that is itself quite worn-out by now yet sadly fitting in this context. Most of the drawings are carefully orchestrated with the use of composition and color to showcase the breasts. Perhaps there’s nothing so wrong with that, except that they also prudishly and very systematically expunge the genital area. These are castrated women, deprived of any capacity for pleasure, without which their defiance and pain loses all its supposed sexual intensity. We may call it the mermaid syndrome: any sexual response is wholly focused in the male viewer; the subject itself has no capacity for it.

I see this becoming somewhat of a trend in Hi-Fructose’ brand of lowbrow art. To be sure, the insistence on unbridled viewing pleasure is one of the defining characteristics of the movement, but so has been its playful and subversive exploration of gender and sexuality. In this case, though, it seems that a subculture that purports to spurn traditional hierarchies is opening a backdoor to patriarchy. Is it a ruse devised to engage patriarchy in kinky anal play? We can only hope.

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