Arts and Culture Blog

Artist Spotlight – Christopher Mooney

Christopher M. Mooney

Image courtesy of L.A. Iversen

If Portland has a “poet laureate” of erotic art, it might be Christopher Mooney. Although creating such works for barely 10 years now, Christopher has made up for lost time with an impressive level of production. He estimates that to date, he has created over 30 finished erotic paintings, many of eye-popping proportions up to 4 x 5 feet. He has shown work in Seattle Erotic Arts Fest, Angst Gallery’s Celebration of the Male Form, Kinkfest’s Dirty Little Secrets Gallery, the Dirty Detroit show and Nude Nite in Florida. If you’ve spent time in the Portland sex-positive club scene, you’ve almost certainly seen his distinctive style — he has had solo shows at Catalyst Sex Positive Place, Club Privata, and Sanctuary Club, with work on loan to the “house collections” of Catalyst for a time and Sanctuary (as of this writing).

Christopher can claim to have exerted direct influence over the very creation of multiple erotic galleries around Portland. He was an early inspiration for the Catalyst to exhibit adult art, and a few years later, as he explains, “When I discovered Sanctuary … they did not have any erotic art … so I suggested the idea of showing art on a monthly basis and I spearheaded the idea, and that got me motivated to do more.”

Yet, Christopher hasn’t always been the maestro of figurative art he is today. Early on he devoted himself to the other passion of his artistic expression: the bridges and other monumental examples of “landmark” architecture which comprise the remainder of his catalog. From the beginning of his training at Parsons School of Design, a stone’s throw from where he grew up in Oyster Bay, NY, Christopher was drawn to the soaring geometries and structural designs he saw in such objects. He quickly perfected a nearly photo-realistic ability through which he strives to render as faithfully as he can the aesthetic grace he perceives in these structures. But it isn’t just inert materials he sees — in their careful and precise arrangements Christopher is able to sense a connection to the mind of the creator who put them there, as if he can feel the presence of the engineers themselves. “Bridges are about connecting … accessibility, but also is a man-made structure, a shape, a form.”

Likewise, Christopher believes that in the shadows and highlights of physical bodies he feels he communicates with more than just the superficial appearance of his subjects, but their inner essence as well. “My connection with the figure is also the same connection I understand about bridges — I find it fascinating to connect with the person whom I’m doing a painting of, it’s the relationship between the sitter and myself — when it comes to erotic art, I explore … by observing what they have to share and what they have to express.” 

In order to most effectively explore the surfaces and contours in which he finds these connections, Christopher has developed a signature technique to best highlight what he is after. It is this technique which gives rise to the red and blue lighting scheme for which much of his work is known. Red and blue have long enjoyed a reputation among lighting designers in color theory for the vivid way they contrast without creating unpleasant dissonance. (This effect is a staple of film lighting, for example.) As Christopher describes it, “How the person is identified is based on the shape of the shadows [and] highlights … other lights give a funny-looking muddy area …with the red and blue it’s more dynamic, there’s lots of shadows, lots of highlights.”

Christopher has been mostly deaf since an early age — a result of a serious illness his mother suffered during pregnancy. Although Christopher can communicate through speech with careful diligence and mechanical aid, he has also developed a heightened knack for non-verbal communication to help fill in and round out the way he interacts with others. Christopher’s creative process with his model collaborators is itself a form of communion which he treats with great respect. He doesn’t just seek to paint an outward image but strives to reach a level of connection. In this regard, Christopher is a firm believer in the importance which the sex-positive community places on integrity. “Key thing when it comes to the sex positive community is to be friendly and develop a rapport … there’s a sense of openness in order to be … successful in business, in hiring a model and finishing a piece.” He explains, “When you see someone who’s very attractive … you have to keep cool in that business, and develop great friends.”

Image courtesy of L.A.Iversen

Despite Christopher’s prolific output, specializing in the areas he does isn’t as easy as he makes it look. He struggles with many of the same problems as any artist working in sex-positive subject matter. Sales are hard enough to come by, and the last thing a struggling artist needs is to make a successful sale and then get inexplicably ghosted by the model who collaborated in its creation. But it happens more often than you think, and unfortunately befell Christopher in the case of one of his most well-received pieces. 

However, Christopher perseveres in putting his work out there. One of the art community’s biggest self-promotion opportunities of the year, Portland Open Studios, is taking place this month, and Christopher is eagerly looking forward to being part of it! Portland Open Studios is a hugely popular event which takes place every year in October — this year’s dates are the 12th/13th and 19th/20th. For this event, dozens of artists all over Portland, open their work spaces to the public, and the coordinators publish a map showing how to find them all throughout the city. (See for more information.) Christopher’s studio is his home just off I-5 near Lake Oswego; for the event, he’ll be opening his doors to all visitors and will have paintings on display all over his house. While the adult nature of Christopher’s work obviously presents challenges for a mainstream event like this, one of the great things about our community is that the people who arrange events like these fully support the freedom of creative expression and the importance of art which challenges conventional boundaries. Simply as a common courtesy, Christopher plans to have his erotic artwork on display in its own room, giving guests the opportunity to explicitly seek it out. Christopher jokes that arriving with a copy of PDXScene magazine will suffice as a “secret code” to gain admission to the “naughty” wing.

To kick off this month’s erotic art tour, Christopher explains, “I enjoy having the opportunity to meet models in the sex positive community to do photo-shoots, sketch, and paint, to portray their thoughts and feelings, and to create an erotic atmosphere of sex positive people in their environments. Here is an opportunity to see my new works in the nude, play, kink, and cuddle.”

Join us on a personally guided tour of Christophers favorite works which are too sensitive for this blog. You can take this tour by checking out this months issue of PDXScene Magazine.

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