I've never formally studied art, so my opinions may be plebeian, but I like to think that I'm fairly intelligent, and I do have some experience making art. The question on my mind today deals with the concept of "fine art erotica". Not that I've ever really heard the term before. I can't claim to be the first person to think of it, but - especially in light of the art vs. porn debate - it seems like it could use some consideration. The first question to ask is, what is fine art?
Much as I hate to boil down a complicated concept to its most simple essence (aw, who am I kidding, I love doing it), the quickest explanation that has stuck in my head over the years is that "fine" art is art for art's sake. Which is kind of a nebulous definition, but then, art is a nebulous concept. There is some difficulty with this definition, however.
Very much like in the debate between art and porn, where porn is used to denigrate media that does not rise to the quality of "art", "fine art" is often considered to be art of a particular quality, above that of pop art and other kinds of "applied" art. Think of the different values that are awarded opera versus dance music. However, my opinion is that "pop", or "applied", art can be just as "fine" as "fine art" (very much like how pornography can, if rarely, be just as artistic as the best examples of art).
If you're considering "fine art" by the definition of "art for art's sake", then even if the art is being commissioned for some other sake, the "artsiness" of it can still approach "fine art" quality - it all depends on the intentions (and skill) of the artist. I bring this up because it seems to me that if "fine art" must aspire to no other purpose than aesthetics, then erotic art, of the type that I like to create, can never reach this standard since it has the dual purpose of being beautiful and being sexually appealing.
Take a bowl of fruit, for example. Why would anyone draw a bowl of fruit, other than to demonstrate its natural beauty, and the artist's own proficiency? It is not being drawn to inspire hunger in the viewer - that would be called advertising. But then, there is this thing called the "fine art nude". It seems to me that, at least in some cases, the artist is primarily (if not exclusively) concerned with the aesthetic beauty of the human body. Is it simply not possible to depict, artistically, matters of human sexuality in a way that does not pander to the erotic impulse? And how much of that responsibility lies in the artist, and how much in the viewer?
I'm not particularly concerned with the "badge" of "fine art", and whatever prestige it may bring the bearer. I think too much dedication to "purity" - in this case as to the intention of creating art - can render a piece stale, and devoid of humanity. Of greater concern to me is the aesthetic quality of a piece of art, and it is firmly my opinion that erotic art can achieve the quality of the greatest fine art. Certainly, the right piece, taken in comparison to a similar fine art nude, can be every bit its equal in terms of artistic and aesthetic quality. And some fine art nudes - whatever the artists' alleged intent - can certainly be interpreted to be just as erotically compelling as a comparable piece of so-called "fine art erotica".
And if this is not an example of that, then I don't know what is:
I'm not claiming it to be the equal of Michelangelo's David, necessarily, but considering the vast array of nudes (of variable quality) that claim the title of "fine art", I see it as nothing more than prejudice to believe that erotic art cannot aspire to the same goals. Especially considering the honored treatment this image would receive if all you changed was - not anything about the light or composition, but - the tumescence of the male organ...