Judge Potter Stewart of the U.S. Suprem Court once said that pornography was difficult to define, but he knew it when he saw it. He was getting to a deeper question about where is the line between beauty and indecency. A naked body does not necessarily make something pornographic. Do two bodies? Three? Where is the line? Instead of being a clear, black and white delineation, there is plenty of gray area in between. That gray area is explored in the first volume of Shadow and Light by Quinn from Amerotica/NBM.
Shadow and Light is a collection of short erotic stories which revolve around the multiple meanings of the titular phrase. Quinn skillfully illustrates each story with graphite and charcoal, paying close attention to the curves and shapes of the body. The art is reminiscent of the work of Chris Van Allsburg, that is if Chris Van Allsburg ever illustrated a scenario involving a woman, a man, and a leash and collar set. The effect is enthralling as one rarely sees that kind of detail in any kind of graphic storytelling, let alone in one dedicated to sexual activities.
The use of blacks and grays highlights the light sources, thus giving a nod to the title. It also highlight’s Quinn’s enjoyment of the female body in all its glory. He is not setting out to portray impossible women, Instead he looks for the beauty in all women and draws the viewer’s attention to those parts through skillful shading and attention to detail.
The stories themselves also delve into the shadows of sexual relations. None of the tales in Shadows and Light woud be what most people refer to as “normal”. They stray into the darker side of sex, with power play – Dominant/submissive relationships. These are the places, the acts, where most people do not dare to go, do not dare to imagine. Quinn reveals these scenarios not to be horrible and dark, but instead can be light and beautiful.
And therein lies the third meaning of Shadow and Light. In the text pieces accompanying each set of illustrations, Quinn explores the inner workings of the mind of the participants. How is it that they got to this situation? How did they make the decision to enter into a relationship where there is an exchange of power, a sacrifice of self-control? Quinn sheds light on these thoughts and decisions, making the characters in the story seem much more realistic than any actor or actress in a movie.
Like the good Judge said, I may not be able to define pornography, but I know it when I see it. Shadow and light is pornography. But that does not mean that it is not beautiful or that it does not have value or meaning. Shadow and light is an exciting book which explores a different type of sexual act with a kind of maturity and artistic eye which is lacking from most other erotic books. Shadow and Light would make a fantastic addition to anyone’s collection of erotic art and stories.
You can check out a selection of NSFW preview pages here.