I CAME TOO EARLY.
Sex, like going out, carries the risk of the anticipation being a more visceral experience than consummation. Art is supposed to save us from this sad gambit, but when you mix all three—as at the opening of the Pornhub-sponsored exhibition “The Pleasure Principle” at Maccarone in Boyle Heights—you may end up sitting in your car for twenty minutes, wearing a strapless top that smooshes your boobs, waiting for the place to fill up, trying to feel the vibe.
I had a sexting appointment with Karen Finley, one of the original NEA Four, as part of her Sext Me If You Can performance, where the artist live paints tiny portraits based on anonymous sexting sessions with willing participants. I signed up for journalism, of course. I had imagined that the session would involve me walking around the gallery or open-bar courtyard, trying to conjure some performatively cringey sapphic content—and I was not looking forward to it. Instead, I was taken to one of Maccarone’s bathrooms, handed a slip of paper with a phone number on it, and given ten minutes to “do or send whatever you like,” according to the gallery assistant. I sat under the white fluorescent lights of the tiny bathroom, a little bit at a loss (sperm donors: Is this what it’s like?). If I knew it was private I could have just brought a vibrator, I thought. I then texted this thought to Karen. Good opener! Who knew? Karen texted back plainly: Welcome. Cell reception in the bathroom was not so great. My dawdling and our initial exchange already ate up half the session, and Karen was supposed to be painting . . . this. I sat on the toilet lid, pulled my top down, stuck out my tongue, and took a photo that can only be described as a parody of a sext, making sure to crop out the top half of my face. I sent it to Karen. How’s that? I asked. Purrfect, she said. NO FILTER, I bragged. Hahahahaha, she texted in reply. I ran into painter Hayley Barker on the way out: “You sexted with Karen? She changed my life in the ’90s!”