Alexander Esguerra

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American painter: 1982-present

Relationships have their fair shares of ups and downs. Sometimes unfair shares. It’s difficult at times to accept the vulnerability and compromise that must be present in order to share a life with another human being. Sex, as a physical mingling of vulnerability and intimate connection, can either be the wedge in a relationship or be the glue that holds it together. It can complicate a healthy relationship or save a faltering one. It is an essential tool in the hunt for a meaningful bond with someone.

In 2010, American artist Alexander Esguerra woke up in his New York apartment after an amorous night with a partner and looked around his messy room. This moment of seeing his normally organized space rendered chaotic after a night of passion sparked the beginning of his project Love & Paint, which is a project growing popular in New York and California that provides a visual representation of physical love between partners. He says, “I wanted to artistically capture those moments through the act of sex that our bodies interacted and affected the space around us without bringing in that whole played-out porn spiel.”

Since that morning, nearly 50 couples have come to Esguerra to participate in the Love & Paint experience. For couples who want to get more fancy, the experience can include Broadway tickets, romantic dinners and spa treatments. But the main event is always the same: a night in a New York City hotel suite with a bottle of champagne, candles, a 60″x72″ linen canvas spread on the floor on top of a heated surface and plethora of non-toxic paint. The rest you can leave to your imagination.

The end results of the colorful copulation are more varied than I would have thought. Some couples seem to have been more romantic, others more violent or passionate. But the great part is that beyond these general stipulations, the experience remains an intimate secret between partners. “Sex is basically the great equalizer,” Esguerra says. “You look at these paintings and you can’t tell if the couple was gay or straight or old or young or married or cheating.” There is mystery involved in them although they are intensely intimate paintings.

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Conflict: tempera and gesso on canvas, 2010

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Her and Her: tempera and gesso on canvas, 2010

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Mad Men: tempera on canvas, 2010

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Stood Up and Fed Up: tempera on canvas, 2010

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Betrayal: acrylic on plexi, 2012

I find the variability of these paintings intriguing. They are not one messy blur of combined colors mixed by flailing limbs. There are stages involved, some frenzied and some gentle. Some paintings are one unified movement of color, others are the result of broken blocks of movement and smudged handprints. They offer a glimpse into physical relationships without becoming pornographic, which I think is difficult to do when the subject matter is sex. The finished products are beautiful even without the back-story, though the story is the best part. Some couples have even salvaged their relationships because of Esguerra’s project: a result of the project that the artist celebrates. “It has become so much more powerful than sex,” he said. “It is more like relationship therapy, a joyous experience for the couples to celebrate their love.”

I was skeptical, but I think the project’s central idea is a good one. Though I believe there are less expensive ways to rekindle a flickering flame, I appreciate that this all-inclusive experience can get anyone in the world involved in art, and every painting is the result of love and a desire to visually represent it. Here are some examples of happy participants:

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