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Artist Boris Torres Wants to Make Porn Precious

Artist Boris Torres Wants to Make Porn Precious

Boris Torres

The artist seeks to illuminate beauty, even in the darkest of sexual places 

Photo of Boris Torres by Aaron Tilford | All other photos courtesy of Boris Torres

Themes of sexuality and sensuality give cohesion to Boris Torres's dramatic aesthetic range, yet behind the risque there's a simple, rather old-fashioned inspiration: a search for beauty, even in dark places.

"I always believed that gay stuff, like pornography, was dirty," Torres says. "I believed you'd want to throw it out, or hide it. So I'm doing the opposite. I'm making it into precious things to keep and hold on to."

Careful viewers may recall that his works have been featured in two recent films -- Keep the Lights On and Love Is Strange -- made by his husband, filmmaker Ira Sachs (the couple also have two children together), who is also exploring themes of sexuality and relationship dynamics in his movies.

Constantly exploring new techniques, Torres has immersed himself in collage for his latest projects, but the pieces still speak to his wider body of work. His salacious, repurposed materials, including classified sex ads and flyers from bathhouses, allow the artist to pay homage to bygone eras of sexual exploration, his own included.

Boris Torres

Out: When did you start with the collages?

Boris Torres: I started last summer, because my kids had just started preschool and we had to make these family scrap books, and I went crazy. I was just having a lot of fun, and then it sort of naturally transformed into me playing more with collages. I use a lot of different material, marker drawings, oil on paper, oil on panel, acrylic, this marker, pencil... I use lots of different mediums, so it just seemed like collage was another way to explore.

What material do you incorporate into these pieces?

I use work from other places. Porn magazines, vintage '60s magazines, old flyers. I've collected a lot of stuff since I was 16 when I used to go out a lot, so I've been using some of those.

In your work, there's a clear interest in sexuality.

Yes. Since I was a kid I've always been interested in, porn, I guess. Drawing it myself. I didn't have access to porn magazines, and I was always horny. Trying to draw the male body and the female body, that used to be really exciting for me. This interest in sex through art, you know, I think it's something that has been in art forever. Sexuality. It's something that I embrace in different forms, it's not always a cock. I think my oppression as a gay man, growing up Catholic, all of that has also kind of forced me to explore these things, because they were always repressed. It's always made me very interested in sexuality.

Boris Torres 2

What is it about porn that you find exciting?

I think pornography is an art form, and thats what's interesting. The way it has to be portrayed and displayed and organized. In pornography there's a level of kitsch, and there's a low and highbrow art, an artistic process, and I've always been interested in that, and playing into that.

Does that still apply today? What do you make of the current porn industry?

I think it's different. I don't like too much gay porn because the guys, they all look the same, which I find boring. I watch a lot of straight porn because there's so many fetishes. I mean, there is that in gay porn, too, but it's not quite the same. I find sex work fascinating as well. There's such a dark side to it, and that really gets to me. It's a love-hate relationship I have with porn, because a lot of the porn I watch is straight, and the women are exploited -- much more than men are. That always bothers me, because I feel like I'm sort of contributing to that, by watching it.

How old were you when you started drawing sexual material?

Oh those kid drawings? I was maybe, 9 or 10. And I was drawing mermaids, that to me was very sexy. I used to get really excited at that. As I got older, as I was going through puberty, I remember trying to get the anatomy of man and a woman correct. It was exciting, because I was exploring breasts and butts and legs, and as I became better, more skilled, I continued exploring bodies in that way.

A lot of work that I've done has been about my sexual experiences. There have been photographs of me having sex with my partners, or just memories which I've used. Now, I don't use myself so much. There's lots of sex in the work I do, but it's really just about what I find beautiful and immediate. If I see a photograph that I think looks beautiful, because the light is hitting it in a certain way, then I'll just want to paint it, even if it's just a landscape. In a way, I think I'm very old-fashioned. I really try to make things look beautiful.

Boris Torres 3

Are certain mediums more sensual than others?

Definitely. Watercolors, for me, are really sensual, and oil paints. And then there's stuff that I think is more graphic, that could be more kitsch, decorative.

Your style and aesthetic often hearkens back to an older time of sexuality, such as the 1970s. And then with your collages, you're physically using things from past decades. Are you trying to preserve something that you see changing?

Yeah. There's also the fact that I always believed that gay stuff, like pornography, was dirty. I believed you'd want to throw it out, or hide it. So I'm doing the opposite. I'm making it into precious things to keep and hold on to--and not intentionally. I think it's just sort of happening because they've been such a part of my life: porn magazines, porn movies, these experiences, going out having sex. They're parts of me that I'm preserving, without thinking about it in an intellectual way, like that they're going to disappear, or that I have to show them to the world so everyone can appreciate them. I'm just doing it because they're a part of me, and I want to hold onto those memories, to those experiences.

To learn more about Torres's work, visit his website.

Boris Torres

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