Sexuality in Art

an exploration of sexuality, feminism, LGBT issues, and other related topics in the contemporary art world.

Leave a comment

The Artist’s Muse, The Porn Star


New York-based artist Molly Crabapple has found a muse in one of her good friends. She has been the subject of portraits, a featured guest at gallery openings, and is the main source of inspiration for an upcoming exhibit. This woman who has captured the art and lit the flames of inspiration in Crabapple’s heart is none other than the famous porn star, Stoya.

It began around 2011 with Crabapple’s portrait of Stoya. Earlier this year, the adult film star appeared semi-nude at a gallery opening for Crabapple’s exhibition of her most recent works, “Shell Game” (pictured above). Now she is in the process of creating a mysterious new project entitled “stoyaville” to which she is giving little information about the content, but being quite explicit about the conceptual subject.

Molly Crabapple’s work often touches on the controversial. She creates gorgeous and highly detailed paintings, but also works as a writer and journalist, and usually finds a way to incorporate art into the journalism world. From the artist’s about page:

Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer living in New York. Her work has been described as “God’s own circus posters,” by Rolling Stone, but beneath the lavishly detailed surface, it engages injustice, subversiveness and rebellion.

Because of Molly’s 2013 solo exhibition, Shell Game, a series of large-scale paintings about the revolutions of 2011, she was called “an emblem of the way that art could break out of the gilded gallery” by The New Republic. She was shortlisted for a 2013 Frontline Print Journalism Award for her internationally-acclaimed reportage onGuantanamo Bay.

Molly is a columnist for VICE and has written for The New York Times, Newsweek, The Paris Review, CNN, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Corriere della Sera and Der Spiegel. Her published books include Discordia (with Laurie Penny; Random House, 2012) on the Greek economic crisis and the art books Devil in the Details and Week in Hell (IDW 2012). Her illustrated memoir, Drawing Blood, will be published by HarperCollins in 2015.


Crabapple is clearly a highly acclaimed artist and journalist. Her work is both beautiful as well as political. Stoya is a celebrity in the adult film world. Her relationship with porn actor James Deen has been highly publicized especially during his transition into non-pornographic work, recently costarring in “The Canyons” with Lindsay Lohan. It’s not particularly surprising that an artist would find a muse in a very beautiful fair-skinned celebrity, but how does Stoya’s work correlate with Crabapple’s? Although Crabapple’s work sometimes includes nude or semi-nude figures, I hardly think many would call it pornographic.

I think that Crabapple is making an important point, whether intentional or not (but I think it probably is). Porn stars, and sex workers in general, aren’t part of a lower class of society; they’re not “trashy” just because of their chosen field of work. Stoya has made a career out of sex, but Crabapple doesn’t particularly acknowledge that in her work. She is celebrating Stoya the woman, the work of art, the person.