Dick Pics: Art and the Penis

By dick pic, I am referring to penises in the art world, and not the rating website run by Madeline Holden which she says exposes the fragility of the male ego. (Though that is an interesting subject up for discussion.) I’m concentrating on a slightly more high-brow form of dick pics—though that too could be up for contention.

A while back, I wrote about vaginas in art from the female perspective and it got me thinking about penises. An artist’s meaning when painting, sculpting, photographing, or even knitting a penis is likely to differ depending on weather that artist is a man or a woman. Of course, I’m gender stereotyping here, but it is fair to say that a man painting a large, erect penis is more likely to be representing some form of power whereas a woman would be more likely representing something threatening. This is because we live in a world where rape is used as a war tool and date rape is all too common an occurrence.

In researching female artists working with penises as subject matter, I was surprised at how little I came across. There was a lot more material when I was looking at vaginas. Here are some female artists working on or around the penis.

Louise Bourgeois

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She’s the first name that comes to mind. Her focus on the penis has been extensive. Bourgeois tackled many themes throughout her career but towards the late 60’s and 70’s, with sculptures, paintings and prints made up of phallic shapes, her work became more sexually explicit. Bourgeois’ piece Janus Fleuri creates a fairly phallic impression, in a double-ended kind of way, which expresses sexuality and the deflation of it collapsing in on itself in a way that’s almost grotesque. And a bit sad looking.

Yayoi Kusama

Earlier I mentioned that men more commonly use the penis as a representation of virility and power. Kusama seems to highlight this point by poking a little fun at the subject matter. She sews and stuffs fabric penises and attaches them to everyday objects. Her rowing boat, A Violet Obsession, is a great example of this, creating a funny, surreal image that also verges on the disturbing. Or perhaps is completely disturbing depending on your disposition—I’m not sure my granny would approve as I do.

Kirsten Fredericks

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A knitwear designer for 12 years, Kirsten Fredericks decided to turn a craft deemed very feminine on its head by crocheting and knitting a bunch of penises. She does all shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. She makes a politically charged point on femininity and masculinity with this art form, and as a lot of the best art is, hers is very funny.

In these examples of artwork and artists, there seems to be a running theme. There’s an element of belittling the symbolism of the male sex organ; throughout history, the phallus carries with it power and meaning, but these women, and some men, are appropriating this imagery. I don’t mean to say that we should make fun of dicks for male ego bashing purposes. I just mean that it is nice to see the playing field being levelled. The penis is not something we should have to fear. Just like the vagina in art, it can be beautiful, political, and interesting. But in society we should not have to fear it, or fear men, or fear rape. So this belittling in the art world is gratifying in a world where lots of women do have to fear those things.

Feature image sourced from cellar.org

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1 Comment

  • David says:

    This was nice to see, most of the time all you hear women say is yuk or gross, when they see or even hear about a dick pic. I’m glad to see the penis in general
    be more accepted, and not like it’s something dirty or vulgar. I myself have a photo album with photos of my micropenis that I’m proud of, which I spent most of my life being embarrassed and humiliated but over the last several years I have become proud of my little dick. Take a look if you want here is my imgur
    album page I’m not ashamed of my condition at all (anymore) ..
    Thanks, David

    http://m.imgur.com/a/kpunA

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