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Artist Statement for Off Duty series

I began to explore and detail my process with this series publicly in 2018. It was during this time that my work was deemed inappropriate and removed from a social media platform.


The image in question had been taken from a pornographic magazine; however, I had excised all of the visible nudity. An algorithm picked up the shape of the model’s body and her facial expression. The image was flagged and the post removed. Only an arm and a portion of the leg were left in the picture. I made the decision fairly quickly: my next body of work would explore what had remained uncensored.


The source of these collages is print media, specifically erotic magazines, predominately those from the 1980s through to 2000s. The majority of the images in these magazines are outdated. They were produced by men, for the benefit and gaze of other men. They depict the female body in a very specific way, perpetuate stereotypes, and indulge in male fantasies of women. In my work, I have removed all of those visual components and their agency. As a result, it alters the established expectations of what pornography is meant to be.


The collages are created organically; the hands and arms are engaging with one another. It’s as though they’re on a break from work, which in this case is pornography. They’re ‘off duty.’ The shapes of the limbs seem to fall naturally in with each other. There aren’t many hard edges, so it becomes easy to place them together.


Pornography is mostly viewed in isolation. Society has relegated its consumption to a private experience. It is taboo, vulgar, and impolite to publicize pornography. It is knowledge that must be sought, and, as such, it is not understood or experienced in a universal way. In spite of society shaming the presence of porn — and perhaps in part because of it — it has become one of the most profitable industries in the world.


In order to have a healthy conversation about intimacy, there has to be a safe, positive environment to do so. The 'Off Duty' series collages provide a curiosity element within its own space. Curiosity is often non-existent from traditional depictions in porn. This absence creates an artificial representation of what is considered intimacy.


Sexual knowledge is not a given. Different lived experiences shape that knowledge and how we engage with sex and our sexual natures. To enter into a conversation about sex is to reveal the disparity between our knowledge and that of others. 'Off Duty' invites you enter that conversation.


Emma Lehto