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Photographed by MICHAEL CASKER

Interview by RACHEL ELEANOR SUTTON

“An unbridled night of passion between two people is a work of art. My mission became to capture it with paint.” — Alex Esguerra

In 2010, artist Alex Esguerra presented his first show featuring his ongoing project, “Love and Paint,” at Andy Warhol’s Wooster Street loft. Since then, the concept behind “Love and Paint” has grown and evolved… Just as things coming out of sex should, no? Basically Esguerra introduces couples to the idea, brings to them a canvas, provides (safe) paints, and then leaves them alone to copulate. After doing this a few times, Esguerra realized the integrity behind relationships was reflected throughout the paintings, so he decided to change the name from the original title “Just Sex” to “Love and Paint.” Although… For some of us single independent folks, “Just Sex” as title would work just fine.

I met the super polite, charismatic Esguerra at his NYC office, with photographer Michael Casker, to snap a few portraits and talk sex art. Esguerra, now having presented nine exhibitions around the world, is currently preparing for London’s Frieze Art Fair and working on final prototypes of his DIY kit that will provide purchasers with directions and materials to create a painting on their own. Ughm… Yes, when it’s available, it will make for an awesome present.

RACHEL ELEANOR SUTTON: SO… YOU’RE OFF TO LONDON’S FRIEZE ART FAIR.. HOW EXCITING.

ALEX ESGUERRA: London is a big deal for us, for our company and for me personally. I’ve been in this four years now, and I’ve been trying to get to London for quite some time, but as an ambitious artist… Well, each time I had big plans to get to London it never happened, and I keep trying and trying and it’s kinda heartbreaking not making it. But everything happens for a reason and about two years ago I brought another person on the team, Frankie. And then a year ago I brought on Tyler and they basically allowed me to take my artist mind and turn it into a business mind, and I realized that we can actually turn this into a successful company. So we planned to launch a product, a “home sex painting kit.” The last year has been devoted toward that, and we’re doing — not so much a soft launch in London — more so celebrating our 10th event.

HOW ARE YOU MARKETING IT? HOW IS THE PACKAGING GOING TO LOOK LIKE?
The packaging is beautiful.

WOULDN’T THE KIT BE PRETTY LARGE IN SIZE?
It’s actually not too big. About 18 inches tall, and it’s circular. It has all the ingredients to make your own home sex painting kit.

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DOES IT COME WITH LIQUOR IN THE KIT?
No it doesn’t.

IT SHOULD.
It should. It has canvas, paint, sex candles, tarpaulin to protect your body and to protect your floor, two sets of terrycloth slippers for your bathroom, little matches that are branded, it’s basically everything. It’s a really silly experience. It’s passionate and intense, but it’s more goofy and silly, which is great for couples. Because, that’s when they have great love… When they’re not thinking too much about it. And that moment, when they create art and splatters on it, actually adds intention to the painting and creates a nice layer of depth.

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND, PROFESSIONALLY?
Originally I was in the military for about three years, when I was in Germany, and then I left that to pursue a creative career. I went to Parsons thinking I could do graphic design because my dad did graphic design. He was a painter, and he was like, “Why don’t you try product design and make some money for our family for a change?” It’s the coolest field in the world; you’re basically an inventor. You design what you invent. After four years of studying product design, I worked for a lot of companies. I designed tractors in Spain, and worked for an architecture company designing hotels around NY and London. And I worked in advertising, then followed that back to do this Love and Paint project.

CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW IT ALL STARTED?
I had the idea a while ago… Then I woke up one morning and I looked at my bedroom after hooking up with this girl. I remember, the night before, I’d made my room really nice and neat so I could impress her when I brought her home, so she wouldn’t think I was a slob. And I remember seeing my room just like, completely knocked out. Like super, super messy. And I was just thinking, “If you’re in Dexter and you’re picturing a blood splattering analysis — like, what happened? What was the crime scene like?” It was like studying how our bodies moved around the room, and observing how “this” is now “that.” Having the marks captured on the sheets, the walls… Like, why is that wine spilled there, and this pillow on the floor here? Or, this twirl in the sheets and the folds and wrinkles… I just started processing that and wondering, “How would someone capture all those physical marks?” Then it was just like, “Oh yeah. Paint.” I was thinking, if there were paint all over the room or on the bed sheets, it would be too messy. So I thought about the canvas and wondered what would that look like. Would that look messy or beautiful? And so I kept thinking, “What if I had canvas?” I kept that simmering at the back of my mind for a long time (like most of my ideas).

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WHO WAS THE FIRST COUPLE? DID YOU FIND THEM RANDOMLY OR DID YOU KNOW THEM?
I was the very first person, by myself, because I was single. And it was very embarrassing. I got this huge canvas, and I got really stoned and depressed. So I poured all the paints on myself and started rolling around pretending like I was having sex with myself, and after that I flicked the lights on and was expecting this beautiful moment, but it just looked like shit… Like a child had vomited paint. And I was like, “Fuck.” And the worst part about it was I’d actually already planned a show with like two thousand people coming and I had no paintings. But really, I was afraid to do a painting. I was really nervous and super depressed for like two weeks, and finally I was like, “I’m not dating anybody. How can I try this with another person?” So I called an old roommate, this girl. And we had some sexual tension, and she was a dancer. So I was like, “How about you wear underwear, and I’ll wear underwear, and we’ll just roll around in paint, like, pretend that we’re having sex?” And we did that… And one thing led to another… And — my girlfriend’s gonna’ kill me. Afterwards, I remember turning the lights on and seeing the canvas. It looked like a Jackson Pollock. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life. It was like eight feet by seven feet with these crazy wild marks. It looked like one of those tribal, cave drawings. Just wild. I was bartending at the time, so I started asking the cocktail waitresses and my friends’ parents came. They all came to my studio. They would do the interview beforehand, and then I’d have them do the painting and I’d interview them after to ask how the experience was.

WHEN YOU GET TO KNOW THE COUPLES, DO YOU GIVE THEM COLOR SUGGESTIONS? DO YOU DIRECT THEM, BASED ON THE COUPLES AND THEIR PERSONALITIES?
That’s a good question. Originally I tried to choose the colors. This whole project has been a learning process. It’s weird. Like giving birth to a really precocious, but wild child, and you want to steer them on a certain path… Then it veers off and does its own thing, but it’s still beautiful. And with that being said, I wanted to choose the colors and command it and all that, but couples would come to me and be like, “These colors symbolize our passion and our relationship,” or “This would look good in our home and this wouldn’t look good in our home.” So I started making this less “about me” and more “about them,” and I began putting the power of the art in their hands, and letting me just produce the environment for them. I started catering to their requests. I wasn’t forceful. It’s a revealing experience, because you’re just having some strange person, who you don’t know, meet you in a hotel room or in my studio and they’re about to have sex. And they always assume I’m going to film them or I’m going to see them naked, which is completely not true at all.

WHERE DO THEY DO IT? IS IT A ROMANTIC SETTING? DO YOU SET IT UP FOR THEM OH LA LA STYLE?
Well first it’s in my studio in Dumbo, at the very beginning. And then when I went to L.A. it was in hotels and the couples’ homes. And back in New York, it was mostly hotels. But now we’re working on this home version, so that way couples can just do it in the premise of their home.

DO YOU THINK THAT WHEN YOU BROUGHT IN THE BUSINESS MODEL, YOU’RE ACTUALLY PUTTING IT IN THEIR HANDS WITHOUT YOU EVEN BEING THERE? DOES THAT SACRIFICE A BIT OF THE VALUE, OF LIKE, ACTUALLY GOING AND DOING IT WITH YOU AS AN ARTIST, AS OPPOSED TO JUST DOING IT YOURSELF DIY STYLE?
Correct. I do. And my business reply to that is that we’re always going to offer the experience where I’ll be there, if they want to. It’s going to be bit more costly. I love meeting the couples. I love receiving their energy beforehand. Sometimes they’re so nervous. A lot of times, the energy’s surprising, like couples will just surprise their partner on their anniversary. You walk into this room and there’s like candles, flowers and champagne. Tyler’s so good. He comes from a catering business so he’s really good at decking the scene beautifully. So couples walk in and they just feel that sexy atmosphere.

ARE YOU SELLING THE KITS NOW?
Among friends and family. It’s kind of like a test run.

I LIKE THAT IDEA BECAUSE, IT’S LIKE… THEY’RE SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES. IT’S COOL. HOW OFTEN DO YOU DO THESE? HOW MANY HAVE YOU DONE, ROUGHLY?
Like four hundred couples… so like 800 people?

DAMN, THAT’S A LOT!
Yeah. It’s really awesome, but it’s exhausting though. It takes a lot out of you.
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Visit Alex Here.

More MICHAEL CASKER for SHK Photographs here.

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