Lovers of erotic art gathered on New York’s Fifth Avenue as MoSex unveiled risqué cartoon artwork featuring busty women, fetishes, bondage, and homoerotic imagery, along with other explicit sexual media dating from the Great Depression to modern-day examples such as The Simpsons and Family Guy. The opening-night “Comics Stripped” event drew more than 200 people.
“If I don’t have an erection when I’m doing a drawing, I know it’s no good,” Touko Laaksonen (better known as Tom of Finland, a gay cultural icon who was seminal in the introduction of fetish art and same-sex drawings to modern culture) once joked.
Curator Craig Yoe, and co-curator Sarah Forbes, certainly took Laaksonen’s statement to heart when selecting which works would be a part of this collection. In addition to Laaksonen’s art, more than 150 artifacts, including original drawings, comic books, magazines and adult-themed animation were on display.
Perhaps most appreciated at the show were the Tijuana Bibles (a.k.a. “Fuck Books” and “Jo Jo Books”), whose debut marked the beginning of sexually oriented comics in the 1930s. Created by the same well-known illustrators who also drew popular comic staples such as Dick Tracy and Blondie, this collection of 18 original comic books—intended for both entertainment and instructional purposes when first released—were the oldest pieces at the show.
“Many artists of ‘dirty drawings’ had full-time gigs in mainstream entertainment,” notes Yoe, who once served as the creative director for Jim Henson and The Muppets. “I consider myself to be following in a fine tradition of men who knew what they wanted, and how to put it on paper.”
And it’s true—no matter how famous these artists were able to make their more mainstream work, none of the characters were safe from being sexualized during off hours: Think Lois Lane, Wonder Woman and Olive Oyl. These leading lades didn’t just save the world or support their men: They were also drawn in sexually explicit ways to spike the libido.
Even the bastion of family values, Disney, was not immune. Several cartoonists have worked up sexualized variatons for Snow White and her seven dwarves, and of course there’s the famous Disneyland Memorial Orgy, drawn by Wally Wood, who worked for MAD Magazine and EC Comics.
A print of the very famous orgy was not only on display for the exhibit—the drawing had been blown up to cover one entire wall of the museum. Once you see Snow White going at it with all seven dwarves, and Tinkerbell without her green dress on, you never quite look at Disney in the same way again.
In addition to works by R. Crumb and Eric Stanton, also included are cartoonists who first set the stage for the Playboy drawings that are still featured today. The magazine lent original work to the exhibition, including pieces from Jack Cole (1914-1958), whose drawings were considered by many the gold standard for cartoon erotica, and Eldon Dedini (1921-2006), whose watercolor depictions of voluptuous nymphs were an iconic Playboy feature for decades.
While it’s not always acceptable to speak openly about sexually charged issues, throughout history, art has been used as a tool to created a forum to further the dialogue on sexual fantasy and taboo topics. There’s something about a sexual act being drawn—and not actually real—that allows the many who might not otherwise have words to feel comfortable with the discussion.
Or, as Jessica Rabbit once so sagely observed, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”
"Comics Stripped" at MoSex
Screw covers under glass
"I used to be Snow White... but I drifted." —Mae West
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