Amateur Works from The Kinsey Institute Collection
Originally exhibited at the Kinsey Institute Gallery January 22 - April 2, 2010.
Private Eyes: Amateur Works from The Kinsey Institute Collection explores the unique characteristics of homemade erotic artifacts. These one-of-a-kind items, spanning the naively playful and the transgressive, were intended for private consumption and created with specific individuals in mind, unlike mass-produced, commercially distributed pornography. Not only did they fill a gap or unmet need but in some cases the act of creation was itself an erotic experience. To date, these materials have received scant scholarly or sociological attention, footnotes at best in the annals of pornography and erotic art.
Amateur works, be they two or three dimensional, differ from mainstream pornography and erotic art in significant ways. The objects are often intimate and small in scale, given that they will be experienced in a private, familial or cloistered setting; images are awkwardly rendered and there is an overall lack of proficiency; if the image is photographic, the setting looks like a home environment and composition and lighting count for little.
More often than not, the commonplace nature of the materials used and the execution of the overall object suggest that the creator was self-taught. Such lack of polish or sophistication in the production of the image or object is characteristic of outsider art in general and homemade erotica in particular.
Utilitarianism and quirkiness were defining features of the various genres of twentieth-century do-it-yourself erotica. The unabashed lewdness and crudeness of these subterranean artifacts set them apart from professionally produced materials. Creators of amateur erotica, who range from Joe and Josephine Doe to inmates of San Quentin, appropriated locally available materials (ball point pen, tissue paper, cardboard) and spaces (from dreary parlors to putrid prison cells) to make their products, obsessively in some cases. They took rough and ready photographs to memorialize the mundane; customized found artifacts to fashion staged images; augmented quotidian items, such as newspaper advertisements and photos; produced stylized drawings, flip books, Valentine cards, rudimentary collages, and manic doodles; assembled personalized keep-sakes, collections, and albums.
Many of these highly personal and idiosyncratic works were made with little apparent concern for aesthetic value, the erotic or pornographic utility of the end product being the primary motivation. While many of the artifacts were obviously created by an untrained hand, they nevertheless suggest a keen interest in the act of making and pride in the final product. The modes and means of production in this parallel fantasy world were and are very different from those associated with the commercial realm. Moreover, the act of making was inherently therapeutic, for some at least, judging by the available evidence. Necessity, the archives tell us persuasively, is the mother of erotic invention.
Curators: Blaise Cronin
The Private Eyes Catalog is now available for visitors to purchase at The Kinsey Institute and through the Friends of Art Bookshop at the IU School of Fine Arts.
Friends of Art Bookshop
© 1996-, Kinsey Institute / Indiana University