In a new series of photographs, a couple fornicate in a stark white room over rumpled, soiled-sex sheets. His hair, more salt than pepper, is receding as quickly as it is balding. His chest, still barrel-shaped and strong, belongs to that of an aging statesman. Lines of wear and tear atop his shoulders slowly replace the ripples and slopes of boyish muscle.
The woman’s breasts drop heavily from her chest, emphasizing her bony, protruding rib cage. Her freckled skin grips onto the last bits of elasticity. Well past vernal desire, their fusion is a border town of early middle-age on the vista to ruin. And yet, their gnarled bodies, furious skin to skin contact, clenched fists and incessant kissing, evoke an erotic reality that’s shockingly human.
A little too human.
SusanSilas, a renowned photographer known most recently for her decaying birds collection, ups the ante with her latest, Love in the Ruins; Sex over 50, an ongoing collection that features her and her husband intercoursing with abandon. Beginning in 2003, the project is Silas’ “personal diary about sex and sexuality. It is about the resilience and the decay of the aging body.”
Love in the Ruins; Sex over 50 is about a married couple —over 50!—who have sweaty, frantic sex, who are not ashamed for not looking like surgically enhanced pornstars. The collection challenges shallow ideas of late about the time and place for sex, love, what is, and what is not sexy. In a world over-saturated with airbrushed, pornified bodies, assaulting viewers with acrobatic positions that could break a yogi’s Om, Love in the Ruins; Sex Over 50 is disturbing because it stands in opposition against cheap hookups pantomiming gonzo sex. Silas anchors sex within the context of love. Old love to be exact. The deep-space kind of love far removed and more refined that the lustful—and at times vengeful—naïve, youthful love. Old love is scary because like the human body, it has its limits: it has a beginning and it has an end. And this sad, despairing reality amplifies the disturbing climate of the collection as it shows two people, unbotoxed and real, desperately grappling sex by-way-of-love not in ruin, but in that short time before physical ruin.
It makes you wonder, what’s more ruinous: hasty sex among the foolish and synthetic, or sex among the old and the wrinkly?
Love in the Ruins; Sex over 50 continues at Studio 10 (56 Bogart Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY) through April 6.
Photo by Susan Silas