In the late 1940s, Jackson Pollock faced extensive criticism from the art establishment after presenting his now-famous drip paintings, where his paintbrush never touched the surface of the canvas.
"It doesn't matter how the paint is put on, as long as something is said," Pollock commented at the time.
It's a sentiment that painter and performance artist Brent Ray Fraser has taken to heart. In 2009, the Vancouver-based artist began imprinting his penis on a canvas. Today he uses his genitals as artistic tools to create colorful paintings as large as 12-feet wide.
"If I'm doing a large-scale painting, having my dick be flaccid is better from a technical point of view," Fraser said. When used as an imprint stamp or ballpoint pen, his penis paints better when fully erect. "The paint is cold so it's hard to stay hard, so I tie it off. And working on the art gets me aroused," he explained.
"It's like the Warhol Factory, but with my dick," Fraser chuckled.
The artist's dick has painted versions of Shepard Fairey's Obama HOPE poster, Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe portrait, and the Mona Lisa. He has also tea-bagged the canvas to create a "ballsy homage" to Damien Hirst's Dot Paintings. "It's like the Warhol Factory, but with my dick," Fraser chuckled.
Fraser is not the first male painter to be stuck in the phallic phase. Australian artist Tim Patch is known in the quirky art world as "Pricasso," and the Dane Uwe Max Jensen garnered attention late last year when he used his junk to paint a portrait of Kim Kardashian.
It's not just that the 36-year-old Fraser is using his bait and tackle to subvert traditional notions of how to make art that's gained him attention in the NSFW art scene. He also creates these penis paintings while completely naked during live events, most recently at the 2014 Taboo Sex Show in Vancouver. The exhibitionist element gives his work the patina of kinky performance art. And Fraser has taken the performance online, too, setting up live webcam sessions where upwards of 1,000 viewers tune in to watch him make art while getting off.
"I use the paint to masturbate and finish off by coming on the painting," Fraser said. "Signing it with my DNA."
You'd think an artist this comfortable sharing every inch of his body would be confident and social in other aspects of his life, but Fraser claims to be an introvert. "I lead a rather ironic life," he said. "When I was a little boy I liked making drawings of He-Man, Conan the Barbarian, and Rambo, but I hated the attention that it brought me."
A timid student in high school, Fraser began working out as a way to combat bullies and gain self-confidence. It was his way of putting on a "superhero mask," inspired by the strong fictional men he admired growing up. He went on to study fine art at Vancouver's Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where he focused on human anatomical art.
Fraser's muscled physique and interest in the arts led him to perform at an art gallery for the first time, on Valentine's Day in 2006, presenting his body as a moving sculpture. The exhibit at Vancouver's White Ocean Gallery featured striptease, self-objectification, and the male physique as valid forms of art, similar to conceptual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres's go-go boy on a platform installation.
The euphoria and liberation of performing on a stage led Fraser to become a male exotic dancer for private shows. But despite having a stripper-perfect bod, Fraser was not entirely comfortable with the profession. "This was before Magic Mike," he said. "I was ashamed and afraid that getting naked on stage would cast a shadow on my fine arts career."
Three years later, Fraser finally found a way to acquiesce his fears and pursue his passion for exploring the human body as a tool for creating art. A private collector, one of Fraser's earliest admirers, commissioned the artist to create an original painting made up entirely of imprints of Fraser's penis, one phallic imprint for every year of Fraser's life.
A doctor reassured Fraser that smoking cigarettes is more harmful than putting paint on your penis.
"I was hooked. It was like creating a timeline of my body," Fraser said. "It combined everything that I had been doing: stripping on stage and using paint on my body." When painting with his dick, Fraser uses acrylic, water-based paint because the skin on the penis is thinner and absorbs faster. He knew an art professor who died from paint chemicals, so he is aware of the risks.
"I talked to a doctor about it. He reassured me that smoking cigarettes is more harmful than putting paint on your penis," Fraser said.
When Fraser started making NSFW videos, posted on Vimeo, his worldwide fan base expanded considerably. His videos and art have been featured mostly by gay blogs with horny readers. Fraser says he appreciates the compliments from gay men but has never been intimate with another man.
"I get a lot of emails everyday, mostly from gay men trying to hook up with me," Fraser said. "I tell them I'm artsexual. My work is highly erotic so I get all my sexual satisfaction from it."
For an introvert, the attention that Fraser's erotic webcam shows and videos have brought him can be a bit much. He says that he sometimes needs time to recharge. During these phases, he paints alone in his studio, fully clothed, with no webcam on, using his hands.
Fraser does not fear that his kinky performance art might overshadow the actual artwork, as he once did when he started stripping.
"For three years, I was commissioned by Louis Vuitton to draw women wearing shoes," Fraser said. "I was so scared that I would be pigeon-holed as the 'shoe fetish guy,' but no one even recalls that. That's what's great about being an artist: you can always reinvent."
Fraser's erotic videos and penis paintings have garnered him a less-than-stellar response, especially from Facebook moderators. "I've been banned from Facebook a dozen times," Fraser said. "Their algorithm can't distinguish between what's art and what's porn."
To circumvent this, Fraser has conceded to censoring his artwork on social networks, cropping and blurring his images so they don't get banned.
"Sex is the ultimate subject," he added. "Without it, none of us would be here. I don't get what the fuss is all about."
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