Erotic art has been a facet of nearly every civilation for centuries, appearing everywhere from the Paleolithic cave paintings to the ruins of Pompeii. Social media allows artists to share their work and gain notoriety like never before; however, the biggest problem in their path is censorship. But Joyce Lee found the loophole, and that’s through surrealism. Lee has built an online platform as an erotic artist by putting the “art” before the “erotic” in her work, allowing common objects to become transformed into modern sexual metaphors. After all, hoodwinking social institutions comes with the territory of calling yourself an artist.
What inspired you to begin creating sexual art and how did social media respond to it?
I’ve always loved drawing the human body. I especially like painting the face and body of a beautiful woman in a gothic and mysterious mood. I practice a lot to better draw the human face and body parts. One day I whimsically tried combining a human hand and foot with a woman’s breast and man's genitalia and the visual effect of a strange and bizarre creature was surprisingly intense. The number of followers on my social media increased after posting this picture. It was really by sheer random chance that I found my talent in erotic art. After that first one, I tried adding more of a story to my artworks and they have been more and more positively received. So I have continued to focus on sexually themed artworks; demand for it has continuously grown. But the simple truth is that I really like and enjoy creating sexual art.
Many of your pieces play with surrealism. What inspired you to turn common objects into sexual designs?
I’m inspired by everything I see in everyday life. Instant transformation of objects into infinite possibilities can happen only in our imagination and to visualize and materialize the imagination is what we as artists do. I get a lot of inspiration from the form and shape of things that are reminiscent of a human body—for example, spherical or cylindrical objects which are suggestive of the curves of a female body or male genitals. And then I think about the properties of the things I’ve visualized to create my own story. I especially like to find objects in pairs and to anthropomorphize them in an erotic fashion.What made you decide to keep your backgrounds simple? What effect do you think this has? First and most importantly, it’s to place complete focus on the objects of my artwork, without any distractions. Fashion photography works on the same principle; more often than not, the background in great fashion photography is a simple monochromatic white or black in order to maximize the featuring and presentation of the clothes. To make the color of an object look its very best, you have to make the background simple. Second, it is pragmatically a matter of time. Currently I have resolved to upload at least two pictures on Instagram per week. It‘s a kind of an appointment to keep with myself. So for practical reasons, I keep my focus entirely on the primary objects.
How have you dealt with social media censorship and how do you work around that as an artist?
My drawing style is closer to metaphor versus literal depiction. I’m not particularly fond of direct and obvious depiction of sex, to be honest. There is no shortage of sexual images on the internet, yet they’re either simplistic raunchy scribbles or too overtly pornographic to be defined as art. This is the reason why I focus on creating high-quality artwork using classic drawing tools and materials, because through those I can temper the edginess of the content. I also often use humor to soften the sexual intensity overall. That being said, I once had a post taken down immediately, as soon as I posted it on Instagram. I figured out which aspect of it violated their standards and have taken care not to cross that line in the future. I’ve often been asked why I don’t pair penises and vaginas in my artwork, instead preferring to pair penises and breasts. Practically, it’s because the former isn’t acceptable on social media. But honestly, I aesthetically prefer the beautiful and graceful shapes of breasts versus vaginas.
What advice would you give to people who want to create erotic art?
You should develop a signature style, along with continuously improving and perfecting your technical artistic skills. As soon as someone sees your artwork, they should be able to immediately feel a personal impression of your unique signature style. I also strongly believe that technical skill is especially important in erotic art. Without it, it is often reduced to nothing more than vulgar doodling. So, individual style plus a high degree of completion with well-polished techniques, that will equal truly artistic works.