Marne's Thoughts on Her Session

Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed.
— William Blake

It is uplifting and life affirming to see a person experience pleasure with a lack shame about their body, and even more fun to observe when they are having an orgasm while reading a book! Watching Clayton Cubitt’s series Hysterical Literature makes me giggle every time, I feel thrilled for the women in the films, reading texts that are personally symbolic to them. To participate in Hysterical Literature, an intimate and intelligent video genre, at a time when women are usually entering a cultural invisibility (I’m 45) felt like being handed a virtual trophy in the Lack Of Shame Hall of Fame! I have enjoyed being a nude model for many artists, filmmakers and photographers, so when Clayton asked me to participate in Hysterical Literature, it was rather perfect timing in honoring my twenty year cycle as model, artist, activist and provocateur; embracing the varied roles that are all me. I have no regrets and I’m more fulfilled now than I’ve ever been as I allow sensuous aspects of my life and my art to be connected, not compartmentalized.

I’m an artist working with photography, film & video and sculpture/installation art; and am interested in exploring nature, pop-culture and sexuality. I’m deeply motivated by the sensuality of the body and have been shooting intimate photography for many years as ongoing series: female nudes Velour Girls, male nudes Mandwich, artist portraits titled Sitting City and self-portraits MLSP (Marne Lucas Self-Portrait) often made in mirrors and reflections. I developed my creative interests by being the Muse for many artists while in my twenties, and being a late-bloomer, I finally took responsibility for my path as an artist and started showing photography when I was 32. 

I’m a self-taught artist and my first major project I put into the world was an explicit art film The Operation (1995) made with collaborator Jacob Pander, that was shot entirely in B&W thermal infrared video and presented a new way of viewing the body: one could observe the veins, breath and heat changes during sex; producing an eerie cartography of the human body. It was a life-altering experience to make and put this beautiful, eerie film out into the world. Jacob and I were interested in this new creepy military surveillance technology and also to reactions to pornography, and so we set out to make a short film that combined the aesthetics of the two with a science/noir angle. We did not plan on being the talent, but for lack of finding a willing couple for no pay, we did so! The technology coupled with our chemistry propelled the film beyond “porn”. Fast forward many years of international screenings, multiple awards and now, cult film status. But despite being a project I’m deeply proud of, it has been challenging to deal with the intense scrutiny by the art world for my participation in this work, while my male counterpart rarely dealt with any. We are both artists interested in the body, pathos, sensuality and technology, but folks are far more judgmental towards the female half of the team; never mind that I’ve taken many personal risks as a woman and as an artist. I’ve found the art world to be titillated by bad behavior in artists, rewarding such personas, but that same art world is ultimately puritanical when it comes to the expression of sex, sex in art, and towards any artists, especially women, who are unashamed to participate intimately in their work. 

Almost 20 years later, Pander and I just completed a new infrared multi-channel film “Incident Energy” that deals with birth, life, death and the universe expressed through intelligent movement, human emotion and natural landscapes; offering a glimpse of our temporal coalescence of ancient stellar energy, as beings of light. It is challenging to watch as it intertwines suffering and beauty. For me, that’s just what life is like!

For my appearance in Hysterical Literature I chose to read “Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror”, the long form poem by John Ashbery, which is not sexy per se, but is aesthetically “hot” to me in its many layers of perception on vision, art, self-portraiture, reflection, abstract poetry, time and space. It is a gorgeous text that requires considerable focus and a love of deconstructed, yet lyrical words. The poem refers to the 16th century painter Francesco Parmigianino’s painting "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," and is also the title of Ashbery’s Pulitzer Prize winning book of poems. John Ashbery has a long history of involvement with the arts; he was an arts writer and collaborated with many artists. Ashbery said "I have perhaps been more influenced by modern painting and music than by poetry." It seemed right as rain to me, to read a poem about a painting of an artist’s self-portrait, read by an artist who makes artist portraits and self-portraits in mirrors, while having an orgasm!

Thank you John Ashbery and thank you Clayton Cubitt for an interesting addition of my life cycle, to the stars and back again…


Marne Lucas is a photographer and multi-disciplinary artist based in NYC. Her latest project is "Incident Energy." Her session can be viewed here.

See also: Other essays on the project