Maxine Holloway was first introduced to sex work through her art practice. For a long time, she had been doing self-portraiture in which she used her body as a medium to explore human sexuality. She had many friends who worked as porn performers in San Francisco at the time, and she decided to try it herself. "I kind of considered it an extension [of my practice], like this is the next evolution of my artwork," said Holloway. "I was going to act out sex in a creative way."
After doing it a few times, she realized that sex work could also be an alternative to her grueling routine of bartending, waitressing, working at an art gallery, and doing freelance art gigs in order to stay afloat in an increasingly unaffordable San Francisco.
We're Still Working: The Art of Sex Work, a group exhibition of artwork created by mostly Bay Area-based sex workers and curated by Holloway and Javier Luis Hurtado, highlights this under-explored elision between artwork and sex work. The curatorial statement, which is emblazoned on a wall at the center of the exhibit, uses a tone that anticipates skepticism: "We strongly believe that placing sex workers at the center of our own narrative is one of the best ways to fight for sex worker justice," it reads. " We're Still Working provides a platform for the brush, the camera, the mic, the sequins and the sweat to insist that sex work is not only work, but can also be art."
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