We consume sex. It is forced upon us so consistently through advertising and pop culture that we internalize it—to the extent that we lose sight of how we actually feel about the complexities of sex in our lives. It takes a particularly shocking example of sex to capture our attention and unearth our personal morals. In Andrew Smith’s latest body of work, he doesn’t so much wrench our guts as he digs them out with a shovel. Andrew throws sex in our faces like he does in his subjects’ he has made a body of work centered around bukkake.
His latest show, DREAM HOUSE, has a bed piled with Dakimakura (life size pillows with anime girls imprinted on them), a text piece, and two massive canvases featuring meticulously rendered close ups of Asian girls’ faces covered in semen. The goopy veneer of semen in both paintings glides over ambiguous expressions—one girl coyly looks back at the viewer with a mysterious smile, while the other has closed her eyes in what could be foreboding or ecstasy. Unfortunately, this ambiguity is what Andrew seems to be banking on as justification for painting girls covered in semen.
“I want people to question their own positions and preconceptions—you or I could never know the specifics of the situation,” Andrew elaborates. “Are these girls actually enjoying it or are they disgusted? Are the women in the work well known adult actresses or sex slaves? I take license: I believe in the girls in the images—in fact their resilience to the situation startles me—and they look like princesses.”
Props to Andrew for having the balls to even admit he sees the women in this situation as princesses. However, comparing these girls to princesses is a trivial excuse for work that performs a similar function to pornography showcasing bukkake. Not only are these girls covered in cum passive enough to invite easy consumption by the viewer—they’re given to us through the lens of a white, privileged male. Unless Andrew has generated a legitimate doctrine of thought behind this work, his intentions are flaccid. He is the mastermind behind the canvas, maintaining control over these women’s identities and pigeonholing the viewer into consuming whatever identity he creates. The viewer only experiences the reduced female identities fabricated by Andrew’s vision and hand—and I fear that Andrew’s opinion on the whole thing isn’t robust enough to defend that.
“I don’t have a solid judgment on [bukkake] because each situation appears to be different—sometimes the girls seem to be crying, and sometimes they are making fun of the guys and laughing,” Andrew explains. “What makes me sad is that I’m not sure what is real about the situation.”
Does ‘the real’ even matter? If a female is enjoying the experience of bukkake or hating it, she’s still doing it for the viewing pleasure of others—mostly males—who are into that fetish. Yet Andrew sees the power dynamics a little differently.
“I would not feel right trying to ‘save’ these women—it’s not my place and I think it’s problematic to say they would want to be saved,” Andrew defends. “I’m a white male painter, it is what it is, but I find beauty here: I see the strange and uncanny in these images, and I hope the viewer can look past themselves and see a sliver of it too.”
Andrew threw a dart into the myriad topics an artist can take on and somehow hit bukkake. Upon my request for the reasons behind his commitment, it became clear that his system of reasoning has failed and is left hanging from his chin.
DREAM HOUSE runs through November 9th at Yactac Gallery, 7206 Ontario Street.
By Polina Bachlakova
Art: Andrew Smith