Orgasm Portraits

People have been asking me to share more of the orgasm portraits for some time. For those unfamiliar with the series, I began painting the portraits as my final project during my senior year in college, but continued painting them after that. I completed my goal of 40 portraits when I was 23.

Interestingly, these paintings – their colors and compositions – are not necessarily my aesthetic or something I would want to hang on my wall. They may not be your aesthetic either. The intense colors in a lot of them can be quite overpowering. It’s fun to watch people look at the paintings when they don’t know the stories behind them. Some people find the paintings more intriguing, others get weirded out. In total, half of the people I interviewed were men, and half were women. Two paintings depicted couples. I compiled all of their stories along with my visual interpretation of their words (the paintings) and some more thoughts into an ebook, but have also included 10 of the stories below.

If you are curious, here is my artist statement, if you just want to see the art and stories, scroll on!

Artist’s statement: I have created paintings of sexual energy via the experience of the orgasm by interviewing many members of society. Orgasm Portraits has been an exercise in transformation and an exploration of character intended to celebrate the similarities and differences among people in an unconventional way.

One of my original objectives was to make abstract art more accessible by depicting an experience we all share, but interpreting one of our more intimate moments, like orgasm, opened the door to many possibilities. A major theme this project is the sublimation of one kind of energy into another. I have taken the words and feelings that others have shared with me and turned them into a painting in an attempt to create a language that is unique for this series and for each portrait within the series.

The interviewees’ description inspires the form, and the energy inspires the palette. Energy includes everything that is not said, such as tone of voice and body language. Orgasms themselves are raw and unfiltered, however, as they are verbalized they become more refined and manipulated. This affects how the paint is applied and layered. I take as many details as I can into account as I create compositions because it is morally imperative for me to remain as truthful as possible to the individuals whose portraits I paint, just as they have been generous in sharing such deeply personal experiences with me.

It is my hope that through these portraits and their accompanying interviews the audience will adopt a more positive attitude about the different ways people express themselves… I want to offer people another way to understand their desires while gaining a greater appreciation of themselves and each other.

 

annaAnna’s Orgasm, 30 x 48 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas

Favorite colors: “All colors depending on the circumstances. Deeper colors to light during orgasm.”

“Oh God, I’ve never been asked to describe this on the spot before. I like all orgasms; I like the awkward ones and the ones where we come together. If I don’t trust a guy I can’t orgasm with him. Trust is huge! It feels like all the events in my life culminate in this hot, warm explosion! Everything travels through me; secrets that my body stores. Each one is different. It’s an affirmation of life. You forget yourself, and through that you realize yourself. When I’m with a partner I feel pure unity that I can’t experience any other way. The possibility that it might hurt excites me. It starts as a warm tingly caress inside of me and then shoots to my lower back and thighs, down to my feet and up my torso. Then my body is totally relaxed. Generally it comes from really intense movements that result in this total stillness and calm. It’s like you experience different selves. The goal isn’t necessarily to orgasm, it’s to continue feeling pleasure. After you orgasm you change, it’s like you’re a different person. It’s like running through a mud puddle. When it’s happening there is so much agitation and there is just one muddy color. After it settles, everything goes back to its individual state. I’m loud, which is interesting because typically in public situations I’m not loud. It’s funny, it just comes out, I don’t think about it.”

Artist interpretation: Anna is very able to express herself and I think her portrait is very easy to relate to. Essentially I divided the canvas in half diagonally with darker colors on the lower half and lighter colors on the upper half because she said she feels like a different person before and after orgasm. This transition is also emphasized by the shading of blue to white. Because she talks about the pleasure circulating and then unfolding in a hot warm explosion I alluded to the image of a flower blossoming. There are two “leaves” on either side of the bottom of the canvas. As the lines loop around they send energy into the center of the canvas where the tension eventually results in the yellow and orange “petals.” The culmination of her (and her partner’s) efforts and the beautiful possibilities of their experience produces an expansive movement which shoots right off the canvas.

 

caryCary’s Orgasm, 30 x 30 inches, acrylic on canvas

Favorite colors: “Muted colors as opposed more vivid ones, blues, greens, browns, grays, but a vivid yellow and red, a kaleidoscope.”

“Thinking about it, there are orgasms where I masturbate, orgasms with someone I’m close to, and orgasms with someone I’m not close. Each of those are very, very different. I could go through a whole litany with you here, but think I’ll go over the ones where I really have a close connection. In terms of that and thinking about the orgasm, there’s a number of avenues to attain it. Basically, I try to leave as much free and open as I can, so I’m not caught up in some odd fetish to get off, rather some healthy interchange. It’s important to me to have my partner feel the same and perhaps share the rare moment where you both attain the peak moment simultaneously. That being said, I think it’s much easier for a female; women can have multiple orgasms and I am unable to. It’s in the same form, but I can’t come and then come again. I think it’s important for me that my partner, if I care about the person, experience pleasure. Their experiencing pleasure heightens my experiencing pleasure. It’s really important for me to approach each sexual experience as a new one, because otherwise it will become routinized. Whether it’s with the same person or with another person, it becomes more fertile and full of possibility. Ezra Pound’s admonition was, “To make it new!” It’s easier said than done though, right?

This conversation has really revived Reich for me. In terms of the experience, thinking about Wilhelm Reich and the whole idea of entering the really powerfully charged field, there is a real release of energy. I can’t quantify or explain it in terms of coming, however, I know sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a hard-on and will have to jerk off in order to get back to sleep and release the tension. With another person you feel like you’re entering this kind of primal zone, you feel like you’re going to this portion of your brain where you’re reverting back to a more primitive form. Thinking about that, you obviously possess the potential for creating life when engaging in the sexual act, which is a very powerful thing. You’re in a powerful zone! It leads me to think there’s some Darwinian notion, like God or nature attached, an incredible amount of pleasure there to ensure the survival of our species. On a personal note, I do feel a really incredible energy release, on a genital level, my cock is spurting and this goes into another human being. You’re trying to really get some force behind it to reach the egg, it’s an involuntary thing, you’re giving yourself over to something unconscious force. Many people are so blocked up and too scared to make it happen.

Gary Snyder has this one thought that resonates for me: “To gain the self, you must lose the self.” Having the ability to give yourself over to this powerful, involuntary release can really allow you to gain some insight into evolving the self. Obviously, control is a really powerful thing, and in society today, control is a major element, with the government, relationships, work… it’s scary! To have the ability to enter a situation where you’re going to give yourself over to something you don’t control reveals some mastery, some level of self awareness. To enter the situation with a “come what may” attitude, this experience that two human beings will have, it’s not predetermined- I’m there with this person and hopefully you’re going to be so engaged that ultimately it’s going to lead to you giving yourself over to the experience and through that you’ll come away from that with a greater awareness of yourself. Incredible!

There is the idea of moving the energy up through the chakras, but I’m content with it remaining in the genitals. I can think of situations where I’ve come with another person or I’ve fallen asleep after climaxing or falling asleep or grunts, groans, moans, or screams, it’s about making a real connection with another person. They respond to something you say, it could be a command or sound. In terms of life, I do see that pattern where as soon as I met somebody and made love I lost interest, it’s easy to fool yourself. After the first time, how do you keep the sense of tension, continue to make it build? With every person it’s going to be a new experience, you’re there with this person and you’ve got an incredible opportunity. Beyond your own pleasure, when you’re bringing this pleasure to another human being you’re really achieving something. All the elements involved in getting a sense of them, fuels you, and charges you, the whole dynamic is fluid. The other person could take control of you, there’s a myriad of possibilities if you go into the situation open. I do find language can really open the doors and allow you to get to these incredible places that you’re not going to get to any other way. With words you can establish an incredible bond. The whole state of energy is liminal and transforming. You think about those even more dramatic transformations where spirit becomes flesh, and when you’re in those moments you have the opportunity (although you could stay on the straight and narrow and have a suburban life) to lose yourself and lose control. The trick is somehow reaching a point between the extremes where you can live a creative life and feel alive in the moment.”

Artist interpretation: Cary is a man who has a real appreciation for nature, and the natural way of being. His portrait is like a force of nature, pushing and pulling, flailing out of control, yet retaining its composure. I wanted to encapsulate that idea in his portrait by using primarily earth tones and organic shapes that kind of support and feed off of each other. Although Cary definitely engages his mind in his approach in a sexual situation, the pleasure he experiences during orgasm remains in his genital area. And because he is “content” if it stays there, there is a grayish blue bar at the top of the canvas that implies that the pleasure is below. The coiling blue/ black and green/ black forms toward the bottom of the composition represent the masculine energy and the ovarian shaped green/ gray/ brown forms represent the feminine energy, and the dynamic combination of these elements brings about the tension that allows one to both lose, and gain, the self. There is a tension in the middle between these energies, represented by light gray, that is being released outward. From this tension of uniting energies comes both the loss of environment but the newness of experience. The bright red and yellow areas are intended to add moments of heightened intensity and represent opportunities for psychic growth.

 

arielAriel’s Orgasm, 30 x 24 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas

Favorite colors: “Cool colors, lime green, dark green, sky blue, metallic blue, navy, lavender, violet, pretty much all those colors. My sexual energy colors are different though, they’d be like dark red, maroon, a layer of luster and a high-pitched pink on top.”

“I’m really difficult to interpret, I’ll tell you that from the beginning. I’m not in an awake state, I’m in a different tier during most of my orgasms. Verbalizing uses a different part of the brain… it’s difficult to think of details because I’m in a different level of consciousness. I’m not quite asleep but I’m not quite awake. I hate sleeping after homework. I know homework and orgasms aren’t the same, but orgasms are like a way to get my mind off homework. Orgasming by myself is a way to bring myself to a state more conducive to sleep. I’m in this physical body, more like a shell. I’m existing in this shell. I feel like a vessel, and there’s this gas inside the vessel. My energy is like this gas in the physics sense.

As far as physical ways, joining together is the closest you can get. When you orgasm you’re connecting the two; you’re reaching inside as far as you can get inside that shell. When you orgasm you’re putting heat inside the gas and that makes it expand. My view is the inside surface of the vessel. You’re getting more pressure on the inside so it’s like you’re pressed up against the inside of the vessel, trying to get outside yourself. The pressure builds and builds and my consciousness is trying to get out. When I orgasm it’s a really intense release. All this energy goes out this little tiny hole and it’s an elated release of the high energy gas from the vessel. I never leave the vessel though, and I’ve always wanted to. I’m half asleep by then anyways.

My point of consciousness is the inside of the vessel and it stays there even though the energy is getting released. I feel like I’m in this space, like the sky kind of, but it’s not so bright. It’s not gloomy but it’s in a non-physical world. The energy that’s released joins the space in the non-physical world. It’s really positive, the energy is a positive release. And obviously it’s really exciting because naturally it’s that way. The others I have are much shorter. There’s this interesting technique I came up with- I suck in, breathe in, taking air and pulling it up to my head and then push with those muscles as I breathe out. Sucking in and out becomes like a meditative process, and you have to focus because you have to isolate those muscles. Those are more intense sometimes because the exercise makes them more pronounced. It’s a meditative rhythm like you’re running, and then you run off a cliff but you’re floating in air still, like those cartoon characters that only fall after they’ve realized that there’s no ground below them. It’s really cool because the feeling lingers. It’s like “is it happening? Is it happening? Oh my gosh it’s happening!” And then you fall. But it’s a wonderful flying fall. The only part that sucks about falling is landing, but you don’t land here, you fall asleep!”

Artist Interpretation: This woman is full of energy! But during orgasm she is in a semi-awake state. In an attempt to capture her essence, I represented her as an orgasmic vessel fusing with her gaseous surroundings. The vessel, represented by a variety of colors, the outermost layer being a metallic turquoise, is surrounding her almost entirely and her hands are pushed up against her face to give a sense of the pressure she feels. The bright green band round her face represents the movement of her breath and her point of consciousness is depicted by the silvery gray figure of a woman falling in front of her face. The lighter silver is the energy escaping out of her physical body (the face) and/or her consciousness (the falling woman). Since she is the vessel and she is releasing energy into the non-physical world, there is an opening at the bottom of the portrait where the energy can leave.

 

kurtKurt’s Orgasm, 36 x 40 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas

Favorite colors: “Blue, black, yellow, silver.”

“Even though the orgasm itself is only a few seconds, I get the greatest rush. I know an orgasm’s approaching because I’ll feel these waves of energy… it’s like I’m immersed in these waves of energy! It’s an anxious energy combined with a powerful force that creates a very complete physical feeling. I feel all my muscles in my upper body become warm and tense and then it’s like BAM! It’s one of the only times where I feel truly vulnerable, and I think that is what makes it so intense- the lack of hang-ups. There’s all these levels of arousal I can go through and in that moment I get an extremely pleasurable euphoric sensation which gradually diminishes. The physical nature of what is happening almost overwhelms everything else that is happening. Ejaculating is the most important thing for me… it’s like ‘here I am!'”

Artist interpretation: Kurt’s portrait is very literal. This is one of the few portraits which incorporated a figure, I did it in this portrait because Kurt talked quite a bit about his physical sensations, saying “the physical nature of what is happening almost overwhelms everything else that is happening” and was “one of the only times where I feel truly vulnerable.” He feels very uninhibited, like he has revealed his true self, in the moment. The layers of blue, gray, copper, and orange waves represent the “waves of energy” as well as the climactic ejaculation.

 

meaganMeagan’s Orgasm, 22 x 28 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas

Favorite colors: “Blue, turquoise, greenish.”

“They’re piercing. I have to make it happen, I always have to tighten my muscles. If I was passive, I don’t think it could happen. Usually they sneak up on me. It’s kind of painful, like this satisfying pain. It goes up my spine and then my hands get goose bumps. As good as it feels, I don’t know if I crave it that much. I can be loud. I like to make a noise; it just seems natural to me. My energy is cold, I feel chilled, as in refreshed. I always feel surprised when it happens. I get the sensation of being unzipped. It’s like this dark hallway… then suddenly a blue light illuminates it. When I meditate I can get the same feeling on my neck. I’m very structured until orgasm, then it’s chaos. I have very short orgasms, they’re brief, and it’s a painful release. I curl up into the fetal position when it’s over.”

Artist interpretation: Meagan is a very complex person so there are many intricacies in her portrait. In the moment of orgasm, she is cold and passive. There is a phallic form moving in from the right side that kind of “surprises” the rest of the composition. Because she says her energy is cold, her portrait is composed of cool colors. There are two blue forms in the upper right and lower left that refer to her feeling of being “unzipped.” As she opens up, a blue light (ie the metallic paint) provides contrast to the darkness in her portrait. As the metallic blue moves from right to left it folds in on itself to indicate that she curls up after the orgasm is over.

 

steveSteve’s Orgasm, 24 x 30 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas

Favorite colors: “An elusive blue, dark blue, and yellow.”

“‘Well,’  said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”  – A.A. Milne

“I remember my first orgasm. It was a most welcome surprise celebrating my induction into puberty. It was, as the poet Wallace Stevens wrote, ” The intensest rendezvous… lighting the highest candle against the night…” But not long after, my orgasm became a problem and orgasms were soon my enemy. For some reason I thought of Einstein’s theory of relativity, how each orgasm was like matter transformed into the purest energy… like the speed of light squared. But my orgasms were also like recalcitrant children, boundless and out of control, coming and going as they pleased. Ironically, or predictably, the better sex felt the less control I had of them. I could not allow myself to simply enjoy that all too brief ecstatic state. Orgasms only brought with them the end of a particular love making session. Once I’d had one, I was finished and did not have even a remote interest in sex for several days after. And I did not want that.

The only time I was able to enjoy them was when I was alone. And then not because I wanted the orgasm; I generally created them in order to stop feeling so distracted. Even masturbation was a problem. Though I knew that my friends were doing it, I still could not escape the horror of thinking that I might be discovered performing my furtive urgent business. It felt like murder. I had no morality, but I was bursting with adolescent guilt and shame. Having an orgasm with a woman was of little more help. I was a premature ejaculator despite girlfriends’ assistance and patience. As I grew older, though, this was no longer an issue. The problem simply went away on its own. In time I learned to control my orgasms, thus increasing their intensity. Still, I realized that this was a problem of its own. I was avoiding them again. I wanted to delay them and only regretted it after they arrived. I could not simply allow myself to feel, to luxuriate in their warmth.

Now, at 59 years old, I have grudgingly accepted an uneasy truce with my orgasms. This requires that I think too much, but that is me and I have stopped fighting. It requires that I weigh out each situation and make a decision as to whether experiencing an orgasm is worth the time I will feel estranged from sex. I read that Salvador Dali wrote that whenever he had an orgasm he believed that he’d lost another painting. I understand his sentiment, though I think it pretentious for anyone but a genius to make such a claim. Still, when I do allow myself to fully experience my orgasms, they are like a physical manifestation of God. They begin as a slight but increasing vibration which rapidly spreads from my prostate down my thighs to my curling toes, over my stomach and chest and actually expire in my head. I do see colors, or a color. I see a blue that I have never found in nature or art. That blue is a color that, at times I absently find myself seeking.”

Artist interpretation: In the beginning, or in the lower left area of the painting, the composition is not very controlled (notice the flailing blue and black lines), but a little more structure is established closer to the center with the black line which is moving diagonally from right to left. The white on either side of this black line represents the undeveloped, and the premature ejaculation, which kind of naturally fades away. There’s a period of excitement and build-up and release, but his sexual energy doesn’t explode of the canvas, it’s a little tamer because he wants to enjoy the sex. In order to do this he contains it rather than become estranged by it. I wanted to have the elusive blue be something Steve never quite gets to experience in its full intensity, so I have him searching for it, as the black squiggly line, in the top right corner. The search is bittersweet.

 

glendaGlenda’s Orgasm, 60 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas

Favorite colors: “Fall colors; I’m all about the lower chakras.”

“I am sedate in everyday life; sex is the area where the more extremes come out. I’m not very serious about sex, it’s just a hoot! I’ve been known to laugh in the middle of it. I’m very vocal, and goofy, there are some weird sounds. It’s like having dinner at an Indian restaurant, you bring your own flavor to the table and pass it around. Some combinations work. There are many different kinds of orgasms and mini-orgasms. I call them “almost orgasms.” They are centralized in the genitals. They’re kinda fun, kinda fluttery. It’s like riding the wave of an orgasm. There’s a quiet intensity and something really powerful about not going over the edge. There’s a tension, like a rolling sensation, and a thundering power that keeps going and going.

Solitary orgasms are really quite powerful. I use technology, I can get more for the time. Masturbation is about letting the body rip. It’s just to get off- the point is to have an orgasm. Sex with a partner is more holistic; it’s a whole body experience. Kundalini – really letting it loose and yelling about it. My head is always busy, [but when I’m with someone else] I completely loose the ability to speak and think coherently. I love being in touch with my partner. I like the feeling of someone inside me. It just rocks! It’s really powerful. I’m so energized afterwards. My body is capable of things that a lot of people would be freaked out at. I can come more than once, and the pleasure builds with subsequent orgasms. The moment of penetration is orange. It’s like a snake-like movement. The best orgasm I had was when I was hog-tied and being fingered from behind. It was like a half-hour orgasm. I was along for the ride, and there was a powerful sense of being out of control. I could never do that to myself. Everything gets filtered through the pleasure center. I realize things afterwards. It would have to be abrupt to be distracting. Group sex is distracting; I can’t focus on any one person enough.”

Artist interpretation: Glenda’s is the largest portrait I’ve made so far, and is one of the brightest and most complex. She lives an exciting life and her sex life is thriving too, her life is kind of an orgasm. I tried to capture some of the different situations she talked about by using the left side of the canvas for her solo sessions (represented by the orange curls), the middle for when she is with a partner (represented by the abstracted orange figures- one of them is her in a hog-tied position), and the right side for the chaos of an orgy (orange lines flailing every which-way). I used orange to represent her because she said the “moment of penetration is orange” – it’s the moment where she’s connecting sexually. And I used primal, rhythmic inspired shapes to convey how in touch she is with her primal self. I incorporated those shapes with rolling, “snake-like” movements, and the occasional explosion of an “almost orgasm” (represented in gray and red) moving outwards. The most explosive and intense part of sex for her is when she has “a powerful sense of being out of control,” so I splattered paint in the area where she is hog-tied. This painting sat in my room for a week or two before I figured out that it needed the splatters- without them her portrait would have been way too controlled. I remember getting out a stool and standing above the painting with tubes of paint thinking “this could destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for!” and then saying “ah, screw it,” and squirting paint everywhere. It was awesome.

 

williamWilliam’s Orgasm, 24 x 48 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas

Favorite colors: “Bright red, yellow, deep shades of brown and blue, white.”

“It feels like a deep and long-lasting sensation of ecstasy coming mainly from the lower extremities of my body. It’s a sudden intense feeling of euphoria. If I had to describe it in one phrase it would be: an epiphany of pleasure. That would be the mental aspect of it. Spiritually, I feel I’m connecting with something higher, something earthbound and up in the heavens. Physically, orgasms are raw and intense. I would equate the feeling of climax with the finishing of a marathon. As you cross the finish line you see your name like “You’re our winner!” The most intense place I feel it is the inner abdomen- it’s like a roller-coaster right when you start to go down. “Roller-coaster syndrome,” I call it. I’m more the kind of person who wants to make out for hours. I like the build-up. For me to really connect with somebody, it’s got to start from the beginning and we must connect on an emotional level beforehand. It’s not as good when the woman I’m with rushes into things. Going back to the analogy, she’s got to be there miles one through twenty-six. In the morning if I’m sitting by myself, it’s less intense than when I’m with a partner. With another person the intensity is magnified by thirty or fifty. The most exciting part is discovering myself and the other people that are out there, like the opposite sex and their different ethnic backgrounds. I get to connect physically on a deep level and explore other cultures at the same time. Different ethnic backgrounds are more taboo sexually and I’ve been surprised by both ends of the spectrum. Life experiences have a lot to do with that though, on both her end and mine. Expression and finding out more about myself is what I want to work on this year. Maybe having sex with a man or being an exotic dancer. I’m open to trying new things.”

Artist interpretation: William took me by surprise, as he is very soft-spoken; I wouldn’t have guessed from his appearance and demeanor that he had such wild desires. I think he’s really waiting for the right moment to break out of his shell, until the “dancer” has fully developed in his heart and mind. His emphasis on the longevity of the experience and the marathon metaphor inspired me to create an abstracted figure in navy blue that is dancing with rollercoaster-like slopes up and down the whole length of the canvas. The figure is almost bursting out of the background, from the depths of his soul, expressing and exposing his energy. William is really using his body like an instrument and I wanted to highlight that. The shading on either side of the figure represents this transition he needs to make internally to become this fully alive desired version of himself externally. His head, represented in red in the top left corner, represents him “connecting with something higher.” A lot of intensity and pleasure occurs in the lower regions of his body, most of it is focused in his abdomen so I had explosive colors leaping from the middle of the canvas.

 

marcyMarcy’s Orgasm, 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas

Favorite colors: “Pastels, pink, yellow, and blue.”

“I know it’s weird, but sometimes there’s a tingling all over. I feel it all over, but the intensity is in the core of my body. My hands will ball up into fists and I can’t open them. I feel kind of sad when it happens. There’s a lot of times when I’ll cry. There’s intense shame. Sometimes it’s painful, and I don’t enjoy that pain. It seems like there’s so much external pressure when it happens that it’s not that great. When I’m by myself it’s better; it’s almost like there’s a spiritual connection. A rising up, almost out of my body. I feel a real connection to myself. Peace. It helps me realize that it’s okay. I’m not judged at that point- it’s like I’m singing opera.”

Artist interpretation: This portrait has a special place in my heart because Marcy was making some courageous transformations in her life at the time when I interviewed her and I can see it reflected in her portrait. If you were to draw an imaginary line horizontally through the middle of this painting you would see what I mean. The lower half is rather repressed; there is a little figure that is struggling with the experience, crouching with clenched fists, whereas the upper half is breaking free and thriving in its liberation.

 

joshJosh’s Orgasm, 36 x 24 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas

Favorite colors: “Brown, blue, green, muted colors.”

“It’s a disembodiment of self; the being comes unhinged within yourself. It’s the moment of synthesis; no boundaries. I get the sensation of being spread out. During climax, there’s a physical cessation, and absolutely nothing occurs. It’s at this time that I feel most disconnected. It’s like the deepest breath. You know when you’ve done a lot of nitrous, you start to die. You’re detached. You have the slightest, most tenuous grasp of the world around you. There’s a hiss, but nothing, just darkness. Then there’s a slow bleeding back in of reality. I feel joyful and thankful. The pleasure is mostly in my chest, my heart, and it comes out through my head. Touch is magnified, and the skin all over my body is warm. My hearing and vision decrease. I’m quiet. Sensation is internalized; the detached sensation is contained within the body. It goes from an experience you’re sharing with someone else to something totally individual.”

Artist interpretation: Josh is a very mellow guy, which I think is reflected in his portrait. The composition is “spread out,” much like how he feels. The blue dot in the upper right area of the canvas represents the moments between inhale and exhale of “deepest breath.” The blue lines encircling the dot are like contour lines on a topography map, and they can be either a peak or depression depending on how you interpret what he says. There is nothing around him in this moment except black “darkness.” The pleasure that’s coming out through his head is shown in brown. There’s a little blue upside-down heart dancing in the middle of the canvas and some abstract movements of legs and arms overlapping it in the aqua and blue. There is a lot of ambiguity because he feels detached in the moment.

Hope you’ve enjoyed some of these stories!

– Nikita

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