Every Friday, BULLETT’s introducing our favorite Instagram profiles and getting to know the people behind the posts.
Nikki Pecasso is fighting sexual shame by plunging straight into it. With her erotic illustrations from the female perspective, the 24-year-old artist embraces sexuality by recreating her own intimate moments. In gritty drawings, with playful, dark humor, and a penchant for dripping detail, Pecasso shines a light on the realities of sex, with the hope of erasing stigma and encouraging healthy curiosity.
Pecasso’s pen and ink illustrations span a variety of romantic situations, from the first time using sex toys with a partner, to kinky, masked hookups. But the spectrum of feeling she captures makes her work accessible to anyone who’s ever felt strange about sexual exploration. Using art as an outlet for her own mental processing, the Vancouver-born artist confronts memories ridden with shame just as often as she depicts sweet moments between girlfriends. But you couldn’t distinguish her cringe-worthy memories from her pleasant ones by just looking at her drawings. Pecasso infuses every scene with the same lighthearted sense of play, suggesting there really is no sexual situation to be ashamed about—not even giving a snowman a blowjob.
‘Our Love Just Broke’
In Pecasso’s work, sexuality isn’t shameful, and the time we spend exploring our bodies shouldn’t be embarrassing. Instead, we should celebrate the weird alongside the good, because it’s all part of our journey. Or at least, that’s what Pecasso says in her connect-the-dots series, where she invites the audience on a literal sexual expedition through art. With half of an illustration completed in black and shades of grey, viewers are encouraged to trace and connect the other half’s numbers to complete the picture, just like we did as kids. This time, however, your finished drawing will be a woman masturbating.
Depicting different relational dynamics and wavering between the points of view of women and men, queer and cis, Pecasso seeks to understand sex for herself, just as much as she aims to empower other women. Scrolling through her Instagram, you’ll find that her work confronts sexuality with a tactness that’s unique from other erotica. The bold lines and harsh, contrasting colors of Pecasso’s illustrations are balanced by the balmy vulnerability of her characters’ eyes. And the way she fuses a childlike activity with raw adult experiences in her connect-the-dots series sums up the core value of her work: sexuality is meant to be enjoyed, and we should all stop being so neurotic about it.
Read our interview with the artist, below.
‘When I Think About U…’
Name: Nikki Pecasso
How did you get into erotic art?
When I was little, I drew females all the time, but not as provocative obviously—they were more like fashion girls. And in university, I was going through some hard times really understanding my own sexuality and exploring it, and wanted to go back to my roots to draw something a little bit more meaningful to me—something with a mature subject matter, something that I’m dealing with.
What inspires your scenes?
All of what I draw is basically my own experience, or that of my friends, or I’ll reference material that I’ve found that I relate to. I find that when I can replicate a feeling or an experience, I can go through it again, and understand it, and that’s enjoyable for me—and cathartic, as well. I feel inspired by going back into embarrassing memories and remembering those feelings, reliving the experiences as something I can make fun of, or make uplifting. I want them to be liberating, rather than upsetting, because I don’t want to be ashamed of who I was going through sexual times. I want to embrace that—I don’t want anyone to be tantalized by exploration.
As a woman sharing sexual art on Instagram, do you ever have negative interactions with your audience?
I’ve had so many responses, good and bad. I get threatening messages, dick pics, women who say “Power to you,” and the opposite. I also get people who connect with the work and say really nice things. It’s great to get feedback, but I’m not doing this for anyone other than myself.
Do you think the internet is a good platform for women to make art, despite sexist feedback female artists often receive online?
I think social media is a fantastic tool to showcase erotic art, but also for females to express themselves. We’ll always get that Western civilization, men frowning upon women, harassment, assault—that’s never going away. But I think more and more, the internet is a great tool for women to liberate themselves.
How do you defy Western shame around sex and depict sexuality in a feminist way?
To deal with shame, I have to laugh it off and feel good about it—that’s my way of understanding things are going to be okay. Sometimes I draw very honest women going through shameful feelings and emotions, and I want the shame I was going through in university to be reflected in my illustrations, so I no longer have to feel ashamed.
How did you come up with the idea to fuse connect-the-dots with erotica?
I loved those games when I was younger. So I had the idea of getting back into that, but for different reasons. I wanted to have some kind of teaser—a playful game that’s very explicit. I want viewers to interact using their imagination, as I’m going through my own sexual journey by making all of these dots. Sometimes the dots actually don’t connect, because I want the audience to make their own connections. Sexuality is like that—it doesn’t always connect, it doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes you have feelings you can’t express or understand. I want to play with that subversion.
Erotic art has long been a dominated by men. As a woman in this field, how do you think you capture sexuality differently?
It’s focused on the female gaze and focused on a vulnerable, powerful portrayal of women. I’m not romanticizing the male, and there’s not a lot of the male experience. In so many scenarios, females are totally overshadowed by their male contemporaries, so I just want to address and empower the woman, and for her voice to be heard.
You do capture the male gaze in your illustrations of a woman going down on a man, drawn from the male’s perspective. What’s behind that choice?
I always want to see different angles and experience what it’s like. It looks as though there’s the male gaze, but it’s just showing the relation between the two characters—it’s human desire, intimacy. That’s the sexuality I’m trying to connect with. I’m not trying to glamorize or romanticize the male gaze or anything. I’m just trying to paint it as it is.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
My work is pretty explicit. It’s pretty potent—I know this is work that doesn’t really fly in an art gallery. But I feel like I need to do it. I want to make non-violent protest through exploration.