Have you ever had a Art Frahm moment, ladies? And was celery involved? Or were you, sir, the uniformed gawper?

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Okay class, I know it's summer and you want to get outside, so I'll let you off with a 1,500 word essay on the paintings of Art Frahm by Friday, with emphasis on the celery.

But seriously. Does kitsch 50s pin-up art like this degrade women? Is it still erotic? Was it ever? Has this sort of thing *become* erotic because of its kitschness? Is bad art redeemable when its obsessions make it surreal? And how come the expression of the mailmen and other uniformed blue-colar slobs is the same as Lou Reed's on the back of Transformer?

See James Lilek's gallery for pictures and his comments.

See here for a rare celery-free Art Frahm moment.

A brief biography (in German) can be found here.

-- Nicholas E. Grinder (eda@impolex.demon.co.uk), June 25, 2000


Actually, yes, but it wasn't panties (and no, celery wasn't involved). I was standing in my manager's office, chatting with her and a financial analyst (we were all friends as well as colleagues -- the analyst and his partner used to have the best damned parties), when John said something joking that made me stamp my foot in mock anger.

Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that I put on my old half-slip with the rotten elastic that morning. When my foot hit the ground, my slip dropped down after it. As Cathy and I goggled down at the white nylon encircling my feet, John started laughing so hard he cried -- after a beat, Cathy and I joined him. Definitely no sexual "oopsie -- look what I did" subtext there. (In the aftermath, I stepped out of the slip and tossed it in the bin, still giggling.)

As for the paintings -- I don't feel degraded because the paintings are so obviously surreal. I mean, look at that mass of pink material -- what the heck were his models wearing, Sophie Tucker's bloomers?

Interesting kitch, possibly even erotic, but not really degrading.


-- Melanie Miller Fletcher (xanadu1@ibm.net), June 25, 2000.

Man, I look at all that celery and I ask myself if that's the only vegetable he could draw. It surely can't have anything to do with the sexuality of the piece, can it? Maybe I haven't read enough Freud and Jung. At any rate, that whole undies falling down thing is as erotic as giantess sex fantasies, i.e., it has a very, very limited audience. I suspect the erotic appeal to the general public would be the revealed limbs, not the fantasy of the underwear falling.

-- Lucy Huntzinger (huntzinger@mindspring.com), June 26, 2000.

50s pin-up kitsch like that degrades the human species. I'm not sure, however, that it does any more harm to women than it does to men who are required to wear a uniform to work. The models who posed for those leering figures had good cause to claim defamation.

I wouldn't read too much into the celery -- I looked at the other visible contents of those grocery bags, and they were almost identical from painting to painting: a bottle of pop, a small can, a bag of sugar, and a box that in the States would hold Arm & Hammer baking soda. The only variation among the bags is the color of the pop bottle and the sugar.

I think Frahm didn't want to waste any time coming up with other ways to signal that this was a bag of groceries, and thereby divert his creative torrent from the real subject matter at hand: the fraudlent garment industry practice of putting a "small" label on overstock large-size lingerie.

-- Tom Dean (tsd@ogk.com), June 26, 2000.

My boyfriend often wears underwear with the elastic gone out and it freqeuntly falls down, but that has never happened when he was in drag, not without his or my help, anyway.

And he doesn't like celery.

er, what was the question?

-- Petra Parsnip (vandroz@yahoo.com), June 26, 2000.

The closest I have come to this was the day in the early 70s that my patchwork bell-bottom jeans ripped in half--I was kneeling to retrieve a book--and sort of fell away to the thighs. I had to hold them together. No gawkers appeared, with or without celery. My undies at the time were about as modest but not as appealingly colored as the ladies' in the tableaux.

Do these paintings degrade women? They might, except that those aren't women, they're mannequins. They bear no obvious relation to actual women. On balance, I would say they degrade the painter. Reminds me of a parallel universe in which Norman Rockwell paints only sweet scenes of prostitutes.

Is it erotic? Huh? I guess if blow-up dolls have their place in human sexuality, virtually anything is erotic to someone. To me, personality--however it is conveyed--has a lot to do with erotica, and these women have NO personality.

Freud would have had a field day with Frahm. I can hear him now: "Sometimes a celery stick is just a celery stick."

-- Eden Sommerville (eden.sommerville@eva-tone.com), June 26, 2000.

Erotic? Probably not. Erotic is (mostly) serious, whereas these images are blatantly fun. I think this sort of thing was always, and remains, suggestive or titillating rather than erotic. What strikes me more than the potential eroticism is the ever-present sense of dangerous disequilibrium. The wayward knickers are usually just one element (possibly the catalyst) of a small maelstrom of billowing skirts, toppling shopping, uncontrolled dogs, busy (or excavated) roads, steps, bowling balls, phone-box doors, elevator doors, car jacks and garden gates. What does this mean?

Degrading to women? Well, I think it reinforces a particular female stereotype but I wouldn't say it actually degrades (but what the hell do I know?) It's a never-never land where a voyeuristic opportunity in the middle of an otherwise dull working day is a more-than-averagely cheering (as opposed to noticeably priapic) experience for the working man (the obvious intended audience). The subject women are not portrayed as overtly available or used, but I suppose there is an element of victimhood - even if the abusers in this case are the quality control departments of knicker-elastic manufacturers.

I'm not sure it's erotic or kitsch, and while I think it's perfectly possible for the erotic to descend into kitsch I suspect it's difficult to progress in the other direction. I'm not even sure it's bad art either (sorry, Mr Grinder), I just don't think it competes in that category. While there is a repeated Umbelliferae-based motif and a well-worn thematic groove (which it's fashionable to mock in our determinedly ironic, postmodern mode), it's just not sufficient to qualify it as art - not even surreal art.

That's my 1500 words. Can I go home now?

-- Peter Crump (pc@oakhouse.demon.co.uk), June 30, 2000.

I can't count either.

-- Peter Crump (pc@oakhouse.demon.co.uk), June 30, 2000.

oh dear.

um. i was at a party. i was wearing a little black dress with whippy little spaghetti straps. the material of the dress is kind of stiff and the straps are a little loose, and because the material is stiff, they keep their shape but slip off my shoulders frequently.

okay. i'm dancing in the middle of the living room. the straps keep falling off and i'm trying to adjust it so i don't have to fix my dress every 45 seconds. so i tugged at the waist of the dress, trying to tighten the fit.

straps slide off. dress slides down. i'm not wearing a bra.

boy, did i get a lot of phone numbers that night.


-- Tisiphone (tisiphone@the-contact-network.com), July 02, 2000.

Ma'am, the true ArtFrahmologist would doubtlessly chide you for the absence of celery, leering workmen and plummeting pastel bloomers from this anecdote, but I'll let you off this time.

-- Nicholas E. Grinder (me@impolex.demon.co.uk), July 03, 2000.

Yes, I've had an Art Frahm moment. My face flushes and I still feel ashamed just to think of it, but maybe writing it out will prove a catharsis.

It was my friend Jill's twentieth birthday, so she and some of my friends (girls and guys) flew to Montreal, where her dad has a summer home, to celebrate. Silly me, when I got there and opened my suitcase, I realized that I had forgotten to pack any panties (not to mention my tootbrush), so I borrowed clean underwear (gross?) from the birthday girl, Jill, who is, um... quite a bit larger than me. I'm a size four and skinny and she won't tell me what size she is, but she's something like a ten. The panties were kind of loose around the waist and - you can see it coming, can't you? Well I couldn't!

We were dancing on the floor, some of the guys were looking at me 'cause I had really done my makeup right that night; plus, I'm a pretty good dancer. I was wearing my favorite black dress, a frilly strapless and backless thing that comes about halfway down my thighs. We were dancing on the back patio, and we had two big fans on because it was so hot out - you can see it coming, can't you? Well, I couldn't!

Because of the fans there were lots of times when some poor girl would dance in front of one and her skirt would fill and fly up a little bit, giving everyone a glimpse of her upper thighs and maybe a bit of panty before she smoothed out her skirt again and kept dancing like nothing had happened. No one said anything about it, really, but I could see all the guys smiling at each other whenever a girl's skirt flew up.

So, I'm dancing (this is after about six margeritas, so I'm kind of out of it and not caring if I look like a dancing freak) when all of a sudden I feel something bunching around my thighs. First I thought someone had wrapped a towel around me, so I just turned around real fast to see who it was.

Turning around fast was all the momentum Jill's oversized panties needed to fall the rest of the way down my thighs and to my ankles, in front of everyone. They got tangled in my feet, and in my five- inch heels I tripped on the panties and crashed to the floor, sending my dress flying up over my hips in the process. I'm lying face down on the dance floor with my bottom completely exposed! It was so humiliating.

When I got up, my face totally red with embarrassment, I was standing right next to a fan - I know, I know: you can see it coming, but I remind you that I COULDN'T! - which blew my dress up over my hips again, giving everyone (about three guys and five girls) a full view of everything I have to offer. Two of the guys whistled appreciatively, and the third one blushed and looked away. Most of the girls just laughed, but Jill accused me of "doing it on purpose" just to steal attention away from her on her birthday.

From then on, I became known as "jungle moss Susan" to my closest friends because the people who saw me frontally nude claimed that I had a curly, tangled mess of black hair between my legs. That's so not true, though! I mean, I hadn't shaved in a while, but I'm always careful not to let my hair down there get out of hand.

Anyway, after the party died down and most of the people left, some of the guys started talking about Art Frahm and how what had just happened was like being privy to one of his art fantasies come (pun intended) to life! One of those guys just e-mailed me about this website and told me i HAD to contribute my story. So now you have it.

I can see that no one's posted here for almost a year, so I doubt anyone will even read this. If someone does read this, though, I can also tell you a funny story about when I went swimming in bra and panties and found out (the hard way) that both were see-through!

To answer your question: Art Frahm's paintings are only as degrading or not degrading as other artwork (photography included) that objectifies women's bodies, or praises their beauty, depending on your point of view. I'm torn about this, really. Sometimes I think that men's love of pictures of naked girls is a way of honoring women - like I love the way by ex-boyfriend used to admire my nude figure - but sometimes I think it goes too far and becomes gross. I can't really say what the difference is between admiration and perversion; maybe it just depends on the mood I'm in or what I think the artist's intent is.

Art Frahm's intent - the way I feel about it now, anyway, which might be different tomorrow - is to take a light-hearted look at most guys' everyday fantasies. It's a rare man that hasn't seen a pretty girl on the street and said to himself, "Wow, that'd be great if her panties fell down right here in public!" Admit it, fellas, even you married ones: you have these evanescent, five-second fantasies every day and then they're gone.

-Susan Vivaldi sweetsue22@hotmail.com

-- Susan Vivaldi (sweetsue22@hotmail.com), March 28, 2001.

Oops! I made a typo above. My e-mail address has three 2's in it. It should read: sweetsue222@hotmail.com instead of what I wrote above. Sorry!

-- Susan Vivaldi (sweetsue222@hotmail.com), March 28, 2001.

Although this message does not conform to your female agenda, I enjoyed your feedback Web site on the art of Art Frahm. Is it erotic? In the eye of the beholder; but, to a fifteen year old boy in 1956 it was extremely exotic, and exciting. Ironically, "the pinup art of Art", was reintroduced to me in stunning form through the definitive James Lileks web site. I learned of the site through a Yahoo magazine "blurb", read in my dematologist's office. Being an Internet novice, I jotted down the URL, and it was the first web site that I visited. Something about the fallen panties in the article rung a bell, and I was pleased to find "Going Down" among the Lilek collection. This colorful image, likely the only Frahm that I had ever seen, had remained in my subconscious for at least forty-five years! It all came back in a flash. A neighborhood boy-Gdog S. had shown this "lady indistress" to me, in the form of a small calendar(5x7?)which likely came through his father's company, and when I learned that he had multiple copies (they may have been "last years")I asked for one. I recall prodding his memory later, but he finally came through. I remember discarding the calendar, but this Frahm image became a prominent part of my growing pinup/erotica collection. Believe me, it was plenty sexy then! And, I must admit that I find it mildly erotic now, even with deminishing testosterone, perhaps from having had a minor fetish then (1956-57)for anything concerning women's lingerie(panties in particular). It doesn't take much inspiration at age 15, but the imagination of what might have been beneath that billowing skirt is still exciting, even today!

In those days erotica wasn't as wide spread as it is today(not to mention hardcore pornography). I think Playboy started in 1953, but a fifteen-year-old couldn't easily get his hands on that, or anything else, at that time. But, he could get his hands(hand)on something, and that urge/instinct could not be denied! I am sure that a female's "sexual awakening" is more subtle, despite menstruation, but young males have to get "relief". And, at that stage of life it doesn't take much. Imagination and a lubricant should do it(probably just the latter). But, most at that age, don't have vivid imaginations, so erotica is added to the mix. Many of those old saws, and lies; about "going blind', painful "locked nuts", etc. are purely mythical[and my dematologist visit(complexion)was also unrelated!]. I don't think there is anything wrong with erotica perse, Art's perversion notwithstanding, but I do believe that it contributes to the breakup of relationships and marriages, largely because it establishes unrealistic expections in males. The universal use of stunning women, overly endowed males, and wild, never-ending, mutually fulfilling, sex is far from what most people encounter. All that said, I don't have any answers or advise. I do know that testosterone rules the world; that all things male are controled by it, both good and bad. If all of those fifteen-somethings could somehow magically settle into stable, loving relationships crime would vanish, and wars would become much less likely. And women could take over in business and politics!

Enjoyed the site. Keep up the good Work.

G. W. Gayle

P.S. You may have received one or more forms of this letter; I didn't finish your site before looking for more Frahm. And, e-mail is new to me; I really don't know what I am doing!

-- G. W. GAYLE (ggayle@bellsouth.net), March 29, 2001.

What is wrong with you people? These drawings are uncommonly hot! They are erotic because of what they suggest. I'm a 34-year-old married man, with three children, and I find them just as trouser-tent-inducing as any adolescent boy would.

In fact, my wife admits that she finds Art Frahm's art very arousing. Every woman has fantasies about being caught on the horns of exciting dilemmas, and some of these pictures capture that feminine urge. The only thing lacking, my wife says, is the right kind of onlooker. Very few of the male gawkers (with the exception of the telephone booth peeper) are handsome. Many women fantasize about a strong, good-looking man catching them with their knickers down. In one of the paintings, the dog wrapping his leash around the woman's legs, rendering her yet more helpless, adds to the erotic quality of the work.

I ask you female readers out there, Has none of you ever had a fantasy about swimming with some hot guy when suddenly your top comes off, exposing your breasts in front of said hot guy?

Cheers to Frahm and the lost art of voyeurism!

-- Jason P. Tyler (entenardol@yahoo.com), March 29, 2001.

I was both a witness to two Art Frahm "moments" as well as a victim! The first was in high school, when the whole school came to the basketball court to watch the cheerleader tryouts. Yep, the poor girl jumped up and her panties went down. She screamed, and got a standing ovation. Actually the girl DID in fact make the list to an outstanding vote. Somehow I don't think that's how she wanted it...

The second was at my local technical school. The girl had to use those two walking sticks with the arm support hoops to move around. Naturally she couldn't button up her jeans all the way because she wouldn't have been able to unbutton them later. We were talking when she tried to hurry up a bit and one walking stick slipped on the waxed floor. Down she went. The fall did little for her zipper and if she wore panties they were out of my sight. However, THIS time I was right there and so I was able to do the "knight in shining armor" bit to help both her and her zipper at the same time. This was in the hallway between classes, so quite a few people saw me "copping a feel" (innocent!) as well as helping a damsel in distress.

As for me, well I happen to be a fan of topless dancers. This one time, "Natalie" decided that since I was such a nice guy (and I am) that she would surprise me with garters and stockings as part of her outfit. Well, Natalie was good. Really, REALLY good. I was feeling good. Really, REALLY good. And then I felt air... Down there. She had hooked my [insert politically correct word here] with her garter and when she pulled back, my jogging pants followed. We both almost died laughing!

-- David Christian (Abatis@Netzero.Net), April 01, 2001.

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