Icon of Erotic Art #31

It is time for Icon of erotic art #31

Truck Babies (1999) by Patricia Piccinini

Truck Babies (1999) by Patricia Piccinini presents a pair of infant trucks. It is Icon of Erotic Art #31.

“The Truck Babies are infantile not miniature; they have big cheeks and fat bottoms, little wheels and lovely big eyes. They are what I imagined to be the offspring of the big trucks that I saw on the road. I examined the relationship between babies and fully-grown animals and people and applied these developmental changes backwards to the trucks.” [1]

The eroticism of this work is not obvious, but derives from the fact that most procreation is derived from the sexual act. It is my basic tenet that the sexual act is not necessarily “natural“, my favorite quote in this regard is from Leonardo da Vinci:

“The art of procreation and the members employed therein are so repulsive that if it were not for the beauty of the faces and the adornments of the actors and the pent-up impulse, nature would lose the human species.”

A quote that also comes to mind is one by Susan Sontag:

Human sexuality is, quite apart from Christian repressions, a highly questionable phenomenon, and belongs, at least potentially, among the extreme rather than the ordinary experiences of humanity. Tamed as it may be, sexuality remains one of the demonic forces in human consciousness – pushing us at intervals close to taboo and dangerous desires, which range from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for the extinction of one’s consciousness, for death itself.” –Susan Sontag in the The Pornographic Imagination

The sexual act requires humans to gain intimacy to body parts which are “naturally” abhorred by humans, body parts which involve excrementation for example.

The sex drive, to which near all human animals fall prey, has often propelled us to engage in the sexual act with non-human animals. I surmise that the depictions of human-animal hybrids featured in bestiaries so popular in the Middle Ages (only second in popularity to the Bible), is derived from the fear that human-animal copulation would result in offspring.

It is within the context of these bestiaries that the work of Piccinini should be viewed. The uncanniness of Truck Babies is derived from a fear of ascribing animal qualities to machines, machines having become the nearest equivalent to domestic animals in the post-industrial age.

Truck Babies also provides me with an opportunity to announce the death of American science fiction writer Thomas M. Disch (1940 – 2008), author of Camp Concentration, The Brave Little Toaster and 334. The oblique link between Truck Babies and Disch is the anthropomorphism evident in Truck Babies and The Brave Little Toaster.

10 thoughts on “Icon of Erotic Art #31

  1. Michael

    I’m not sure if this should be considered an Icon of Erotic Art.
    They seem to fall more in the tradition of Madonna & Child. Cute little adorable babies.

    I think Thomas the Tank Engine is more erotic!!!

  2. Paul Rumsey

    Hi Jan, good to have you back…

    NOT EROTIC!, they just look like enlarged toy trucks, and no more erotic than the Brave Little Toaster!

    I have never understood that quote from Leonardo, – why should the genitals be seen as any more or less repulsive than any other part of the human body? I presume that if people feel this about the body it must be the result of Christian phobias and repression.

    I don’t think that animal – human hybrids in art has anything to do with a fear of the results of bestiality!
    In mythology (Ovid etc) the human form is metamorphosed with everything, not just animals, but birds, frogs, snakes, trees, flowers, rivers, rocks, mountains, – this is man projecting himself into nature, being part of it.
    In tribal dances you see men dress as different animals, pretend to be them and dance with the animals movements. These are the origins of mythology.
    Again it is the monotheistic religions which seperate man from the world, animals and even his own body.

  3. jahsonic

    Agreed, not erotic,

    But I had warned about that in my opening lines:

    …The eroticism of this work is not obvious, but derives from the fact that most procreation is derived from the sexual act.


    why should the genitals be seen as any more or less repulsive than any other part of the human body?

    I think that is obvious: classic beauty is the perfect sunset, a beautiful woman, the symmetry of the golden ratio, a perfect pare of breasts …, the penis, vulva, scrotum and anus, with their wrinkled flesh, do not fall into this category.

    …has anything to do with a fear of the results of bestiality!

    i realize my argument is weak there, but at the same time I feel that there must have been fear of offspring

    …Christian phobias and repression.

    See Susan Sontag: …quite apart from Christian repressions

    There is more to that than Christian repression, cfr da Vinci.

    Another argument for the unnaturality of the sexual act is Freud’s description of the primal scene and the children’s interpretation of it as an act of violence

    It is indeed good to be back.


    You were in the South, I was in the North, I love Spain, I am an English-Spanish translator by education and have visited Spain extensively, including two or three visits to the wonderful Seville.


  4. Paul Rumsey

    There is a difference between something being “repulsive” and something “not being classicaly beautiful”.
    Does beauty lie in “smoothness”? Would you describe tree bark as repulsive?
    Puckered lips are just as wrinkled as an anus, yet you would not describe them as repulsive, so any repulsion felt must come from the connection with excretion rather than visual appearance. (And if, as in that episode of “South Park”, we learnt to eat with our anus and excrete with our mouth, we would find our mouths repulsive!)

    I have no more belief in the theories of Freud and the “primal scene” than I do in Christianity, and I don’t see the sexual act as unnatural, – perhaps because I have got used to the idea,- sex is the only bodily function that we begin when older, perhaps if we only began to eat and excrete at the age of 16 we would see that as unnatural also?

    I wondered what you meant by “the symmetry of the golden ratio”, because it is a ratio, and thus not symmetrical. I doubt that many people could identify a golden ratio rectangle from a row of other rectangles, or that they would find it more beautiful.
    So I looked up “Golden Ratio” on Art & Pop, and from there I went to “Aesthetic Relativism” and from there to “The Grotesque Body” and then to “The Semiotics of Ideal Beauty”……
    So if the anus is “repulsive” because of the function of excretion, then the vulva, because it is place where we all come from,- our gateway into the world,- should be seen as the most beautiful thing in the world, and not repulsive at all…..

  5. Paul Rumsey

    PS… Leonardo must have been popular with the ladies… “Darling, your face is divine… but your genitals repulse me”…. ah, but then he never married did he…. I am reminded of the hilarious account of Ruskin on his wedding night….. and I am very amused to see that on Art & Pop this is the first piece of information about him, of all the things he did in his life, this is what he is remembered for! hehehe.

  6. jahsonic

    Thanks for your responses Paul, I am going to save my comments for a post on “pussycats in art”, until I get a response on my picture ID asked here.


  7. Paul Rumsey

    Pictures by him here, I like the nude with her hand on the back of her head at the bottom of the page, if you enlarge the picture you can see delicate blue veins through the skin of her breast. (Which makes it for me a IOEA)

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