ARTICLE NATASHA STAGG
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY BETONY VERNON
BETONY VERNON IS KNOWN FOR HER EROTIC JEWELRY DESIGN, BUT THE S&M ENTHUSIAST ISN'T CHAINED TO ONE ARTISTIC OUTLET. SHE WORKS WITH MARBLE AND TEXT IN HER NEXT TWO PROJECTS, SPREADING THE DOCTRINE OF SEX-POSITIVITY WITH EACH NOTCH SHE ADDS TO HER BELT
How important is it to spotlight sex in art right now?
BV Art and sex have often shared the same spotlight, and this will never change. After all, the creative process, just like sex, is driven by desire.
What kind of feedback have you gotten over the years? Has it become less prudish?
BV Yes, things have changed for the better since 1992, when I first started to design the Sado-Chic collections. I stayed in creative hiding then, for fear of ruining my business in the fashion world. I think it was about ten years ago that V first published my whip collar. If everyone had been as forward thinking as V at the time, my mission in sexual well-being would have advanced at a faster pace!
Tell us about the group show you're in.
BV I was invited to participate in the "Kama-Sex & Design" show at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan just a few days after visiting Henraux, one of the most prestigious marble companies in the world. When Silvana Annicchiarico, the curator of the exhibition, told me that she wanted to dedicate one of the museum’s eight galleries to my work, I felt a bit nervous, not only because of the prestigious list of participating designers (which included architect Andrea Branzi, who happened to be my favorite teacher at Dumus Accademy) but also because of the mere scale of the room. When I hung up the phone, I had a flash, and I immediately called Paolo Carli, the owner of Henraux. I asked him if he would be interested in realizing one of my designs in marble for the show. He agreed to sponsor the Origin monument (which has yet to be unveiled) and its declination, the Origin chair, that will be on exhibition at the Triennale until March 10, 2013.
How is sex represented in the Internet Age, and how is that different from its previous representations?
BV Before the onslaught of the Internet, the sexual image was still somewhat secret, hard to come by and therefore somehow still sacred. Today, sex equals pornography online. Never in the history of mankind has our sexuality been treated more as a commodity than it is today. If the diffusion of pornography was as profuse as the diffusion of concrete sexual understanding in relation to enhanced pleasure and sexual well being, our society would certainly be more satisfied.
My question is: How do we bring the sacred back into sex? I provide some answers in my upcoming book, The Boudoir Bible. Before the advent of monotheism, sex was considered by every society to be the most surefire means to come into contact with one’s higher self, one’s partner, and even the divine.
Where does underexposure end and overexposure begin?
BV While overexposure to porn is proven to have negative effects on our real sex lives, I don’t think that there would be any negative consequences to "overexposure" of concrete sexual information in regards to enhanced pleasure.
Your sculptures conjure memories of works by Louise Bourgeois. Is she an inspiration?
I am flattered by your association. Louise Bourgeois is one of my favorite artists. We obviously share a similar fascination with sex, and the body in general.
Working so closely with sex as a theme must in some ways stimulate you—or does it desensitize you?
BV I nourish my libido every day, in one way or another. My sex life is a priority and my sexual satisfaction is central to my overall well being: physical, emotional and even spiritual. My creative drive, art, design, however you wish to describe it, feeds into this overall sense of well being. I am aware that my work makes people happy, and this too makes me all the more happy and healthy and serene.
How is sculpting different from jewelry designing, and how is it the same?
When I designed the Origin chair, I felt as if I was designing a giant piece of jewelry. Some of the tools and techniques that I learned to sculpt marble are similar to those that I use to carve jeweler’s wax. The process of sculpting either of these materials is also similar, in that the process is deductive. What proved to be a truly different and new experience for me, was working on a monumental scale. The Origin monument is nearly three meters tall and was carved from a mass of pure white statuary marble that initially weighed seventeen tons. Today, the (near-finished) work weighs approximately one and a half tons. Working with such an enormous block of material obviously demanded a totally different set of tools and a strong, dedicated equip of skilled men.
Are some people better at sex?
Some people say that butchers have higher libidos. I say that we musn't categorize or pigeonhole each other.
And tell me about your book, which is out today on Rizzoli International.
The Boudoir Bible-The Uninhibited Sex Guide for Today, illustrated by Francois Berthoud, is my first book. It is the fruit of years of personal experience, research, and private and public consulting with both couples and individuals. I have been told it is the long awaited sequel to The Joy of Sex, but I recently heard myself describing it in a nutshell as "every shade but grey.” Although The Boudoir Bible covers the "fundamentals," which I think every man and woman, regardless of their sexual orientation, should, but do not necessarily know, my main objective is to dismantle the limiting categories by which society defines sexuality, and to explode the clichés and fears that hold people back from developing their greatest sexual and sensual potential. It is also an initiation to what I call the "Sexual Ceremony"—an ecstatic ritual that entails lengthy sessions of love-making. The true extent of our body's capacity to attain and provide pleasure cannot be experienced unless we transcend the doldrums of fast, phallocentric, everyday sex.
You want sex to stay mysterious, and yet you would like an open dialogue to take place about it. How does that work?
BV We mustn't confuse sexual ignorance with mystery. Don't worry, there is nothing that can kill the mystery of sex, and acquiring sexual knowledge and skills will only serve to enhance and amplify the fabulous benefits of the mysterious forces of sexual love.
Are there any rules you have when it comes to sex?
BV Consent, Communication, and Caring are essential rules for great sex. As long as the sexual encounter is enjoyed by sexually mature and consenting adults, and no one's wishes or innocence are being infringed upon, the only other rules that come to mind regard safety. Fluid exchange is a privilege that must be reserved for healthy lovers in a monogamous relationship. Safe sex is sexy… and it is relative to certain sexual tools, too. In order to provide your lover the pleasures of flagellation or restraint for example, you need to have some skills under your belt in order to play safe! The Boudoir Bible is your guide to the higher dimensions of the sexual realm. It is an initiation to the body, as well as to the tools and techniques that make it tick to maximum pleasure capacity, and safely!