As I deal in selling time, I am aware of the true worth of our most valuable (and overlooked) asset. People think money is the most valuable thing, but in reality, it’s time. You can earn money by selling your time, but you can’t extend your time on this earth by trading money.
I have been a sex worker — both in a brothel and independently in three countries — for a decade. During that time I also became a social media marketer and put my web development skills to use. Everything you think you know about my job is wrong. Every documentary you’ve seen, or article you’ve read is a lie. The media warps and skews everything about what I do and other than the men who engage and the women who provide, no one really knows a thing about us or our (multimillion dollar) industry. It as an extremely fascinating and fast paced place to those on the outside, and to us just the mundane every day. Some of the stereotypes are real, some of the stereotypes have roots in reality, but most of them are utter garbage. We are art students, we are mothers, we are lovers, we are fighters, we are lawyers, we are people. Working a job that is so stigmatised, literally no one knows the reality.
I have a penchant for found and scavenged materials in my work, and I knew that I wanted to do something with materials I regularly discarded in the course of my job (condom wrappers, perfume bottles, makeup wipes), and the recurring items that are in every city but different each place (hotel keys, dnd signs). It was while taking notes in art history on pattern and repetition that this idea was born. I began collecting for this project in July 2016 only knowing what was important enough to save. It was only through the gathering of the materials and time that shape of the project emerged.
Erotic Transactions was an examination, exposé, and crash course on the truth behind voluntary sex work through the eyes of a current sex worker. It was a solo gallery show that ran for two weeks in late 2018.
L’air du Temps
L’air du Temps is a scent of the past created by Nina Ricci’s son Robert in 1948. It is straw yellow, lightly floral, and held in an eye catching bottle designed by the renowned glass artist René Lalique. This has been my signature scent my entire career. Its day in the sun has come and gone, making it a classic scent for a classic woman. Essence du Papillon.
A one year supply (50 bottles) was displayed at the exhibit on LED underlit shelves.
The White Ocean
The White Ocean was an entire room was representative of that which is — in a way — a currency. The metaphor I read in a book as a teenager, and was something that had always stuck with me — both before and after becoming a sex worker.
The White Ocean
Mixed Media (Human Semen and Pearls) in glass
A pearl necklace submerged in human semen in a glass jar sitting upon a burnished gold tray.
Worship of the Real
Acrylic and Ink on canvas
This is a series of quotes from the book White Oleander. An exchange between Astrid and Olivia Johnstone, a sex worker in the book. Reading this book in my late teens was my first idea that sex work was something other than what I was told and set me on the path to becoming who I am today.
The Albino Monsters
Acrylic pours and balloons laid on floor
Sperm and splatter shaped acrylic pour, white balloons with curved tails.
The Depths of the White Sea
Acrylic on canvas strips
An imagining of the waves of the white ocean on primed and natural canvas strips representing the ‘primed’ and ‘natural’ male genitalia.
Portrait of a Prostitute
Portrait of a Prostitute: Hooker Water Towers
Mixed Media (MAC makeup + face wipes) on canvas
When removing my makeup — mainly the rings of thick, brightly colored eye shadow and wings of dark mascara — I discovered I could make a good impression of my face on the cleansing wipe. I have done this every work day since July 2016 and displayed six months worth in a style reminiscent of the Becher water towers. I displayed one years worth of wipes on six canvases in the exhibition.
Several times a year I am gifted fine European lingerie, as I have a hard to fit figure and they have a wider variety of sizes. It all comes from a wonderful store named SOL. I displayed one year’s worth of shopping bags, stuffed full of makeup portraits.
Time is money, friend.
Mixed Media (money, condom wrappers, acrylic transfers) on canvas.
Collages made from a collection of condom wrappers I have used from two years. Sex gets them in the door, but the realisation they need so much more is what keeps them coming back. The condom wrappers are a physical representation of the time spent. The currency is a representation of the monetary exchange.
Do Not Disturb
Mixed Media (Hotel key cards, do not disturb signs, gift notes) on fishing line.
A lot of my adult life has been living in hotels, as I have toured North America. These keys and signs represent the last two years of that. The gift notes are from my Amazon wishlist from the past year. These hung in every room of the exhibit except The White Ocean.
Mixed Media (Champagne bottles, wine bottles, corks, cork cages, foil)
As this is a luxury experience and indulgence for many, fine food and wine are often involved. In touring life, a client will often bring a bottle or ask you to. At the brothel, it was a big deal to have “champagne parties” because it means you hit a certain earning benchmark.
In my personal life I am a teetotaler, but I will always ‘enjoy’ a glass with a client. As I advertise the idea that life is a celebration, it’s only natural I am prepared to celebrate with you. A collection of the empty bottles I’ve earned over the past year was displayed in various locations throughout the exhibition.
With the exception of the odd glass here and there, the alcohol was consumed by other providers or the client himself.
Let Us Speak
Mixed Media (Myntz tins with quotes)
Fresh breath is one of the paramount things when your entire job is attracting people through conversation and expecting them to spend money. They also make the bad champagne taste better, and the worst clients taste tolerable. As such, I order them by the literal case. This represents 6 months worth of cans.
Inside each can is the answer to the question, “If you could tell a civilian anything you wanted about sex work, what would you say?” which I posed on Twitter to my approximately 30,000 followers. These were the best responses.
When you make a dead hooker joke, do you realise you’re joking about me? Did you know that I have dead friends, murdered at work because someone thought “no one will miss a prostitute”? Grim, I know. But real.
I am here to humanise sex work and sex workers to you. We are just normal people, doing an interesting and abnormal job that is completely misrepresented by all media.You encounter us every day without even realising it. We go undetected in grocery stores, movie theatres, and malls. We are normal people with abnormal jobs, and that’s it. I don’t drink or smoke, I have a dog and a mountain house. I enjoy an old fashioned lifestyle and stay in most evenings. I take care of my parents. Not exactly the image in your mind when you hear “prostitute”. But that’s what it is – a normal person. We are normal and we are everywhere. We are human beings.
While on tour in 2016 I started to notice that my work garbage was visually interesting. The repetition of the colourful wrappers, the curved bottles, the Kabuki-esque facial impressions. I started to save the most appealing trash and the idea for this installation was born as an exploration.
This installation offers only a peek into the upper echelon of sex work in the developed world. I sit in a position of privilege in my industry and the only viewpoint I can show you is my own. I encourage you to seek out the viewpoints of more marginalised, less privileged workers as well. All Sex Workers Go To Heaven, SWOP, and PACE, are great places to start.