On Photographing Aria Giovanni Just Outside of Chicago:

In the summer of 2010 I attended the Glamourcon convention near Chicago on a trip that would include another visit for me to the great Art Institute of Chicago where I would see, among other treasures, a photography exhibit of the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson.  At Glamourcon I photographed some very sexy and very beautiful models, among them the remarkable Aria Giovanni.  I photographed her in a group shoot, and I made arrangements with her early during the convention for a private shoot, which took place in her hotel room, down the hall from my room.

I mention the two primary reasons for my trip not only because they were equally important to me but also because they are related.

I strolled the rooms of the Art Institute with my camera around my neck, taking photos (without flash, of course) to better remember what I had seen.  One photo in particular stands out in my memory: Resting, by the Italian painter Antonio Mancini.  You can see a better reproduction by going to the Art Institute web site.

Once at the Art Institute web site, you can find this piece of commentary on the painting:

With its dramatic impasto, particularly in the bedsheets that surround the ruddy-cheeked, soporific young woman, Resting demonstrates the bold, almost sculptural quality of Mancini's work from this period. The array of reflective decanters near the subject's bed suggests that she is a convalescent, perhaps recovering from an illness, given her flushed complexion. Nevertheless, her sensuous appearance conveys as much erotic allure as it does innocent vulnerability. She looks wistfully off to the side, refusing to meet the viewer's gaze, her barely parted lips and slightly tilted head contributing to her dreamy demeanor. The lyrical atmosphere of this intimate--and intimately scaled--image seems intensified by the curve of the model's abundant, black hair flowing across the length of the large, white pillow behind her; the red roses she clutches in her hand; and the manner in which she coyly pulls down the sheet to reveal her breast and shoulder.

Such language could be used to describe an erotic photograph.  Were a photographer to post such a photo on the Internet, appropriate tag words could certainly be “breast” and “nipple” and “bedsheets.”
But, somehow, and far more in the United States than in Europe, the stately Art Institute of Chicago suggests to many prudes a “high culture” position which is far above the erotic photograph in a mass-circulation magazine--Penthouse, for example.  But the fact is that people who believe such nonsense are clearly not visiting all the rooms in this world-class museum and in others like it.
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Photographing, best I could, the smoky, sultry, elegant Aria Giovanni, was to participate in the making of art in the same way the great masters did it.  I make no comparison of my talent to the great masters, but I do know enough about creative work to say with confidence that the desire to make art is the same.

I wrote this under one of my photos of Aria on my Tumblr site (August 7, 2010):

…I could spend days in the Art Institute, but the fact is that all the artists whose work I admire in the Art Institute (and every artist I’ve ever known personally and respected) would never have understood why I continued to stand around in the museum looking at their work when I could go back to my hotel and photograph one of the finest models of our era.  Can one possibly imagine, say, Michelangelo or Gauguin, to name only two masters, passing up the chance to work with a woman like Aria Giovanni?  Pure pleasure.

I mentioned Michelangelo above because I was thinking of the way he painted bodies: like a sculptor.  I knew that, with Aria, I had worked with a full-figured model who had a body made for sculpting as well as for painting and photographing.  I knew, too, that Gauguin would have been attracted to her look.  And Gauguin certainly would have shown us her glorious breasts in his paintings.

Unfortunately, the news this month tells us of a woman who attacked a Gauguin painting--Two Tahitian Women--in Washington, D.C.  The painting, she believes, is evil. 

Upon hearing of this attack, I could not help remembering the attack on the Diego Velázquez masterpiece, the “Rokeby Venus” (The Toilet of Venus), early in the 20th century by a suffragette.

I have learned that it is terribly hard--indeed, impossible--for some people to separate an appreciation for feminine physical beauty from male chauvinism.  That’s such a shame.  In my experience, the female is every bit as capable of intellectual or spiritual gifts as any male.  But whereas no man interests me on a physical level, women do.  For over a decade, since she was a Penthouse Pet in September 2000, Aria Giovanni has been a star for many of us who love the look of glamour/erotica/fetish, particularly when the woman exudes that life-giving look of health and vitality.

While my time with Aria--some shared time in a group shoot and then later a couple of hours for a private shoot--was all too brief, I will tell you that during the private shoot she discussed art and music and reading with intelligence and ease.  On a personal level she has grace and oozes charm.  And I need not waste words extolling her physical allure.  Look at her photos!

Thank you, Aria!

 

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