Human Interest
Audio Guide Playlist

Listen to commentary by artists and scholars on selected works in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, including Thelma Golden, K8 Hardy, Byron Kim, Deana Lawson, and Joan Semmel.


Joan Semmel: I’m Joan Semmel. I’m an artist, and I live in SoHo.

Narrator: Semmel painted Touch in 1974.

Joan Semmel: It’s a representation of a male and female figure in a post or precoital situation. And I was at the time interested in showing the images from a female point of view. So I took photos of the couple—of myself and a partner—from my own point of view.

I was being confrontational, and I wanted the painting to confront the audience with an image that was different than the way they normally saw this subject. Our softcore porn pictures are essentially the same of images that are in the history of art, where the women are usually placed as a kind of seductive lure to the male eye as much as possible. Which, I don’t have any problem with, except that it doesn’t turn me on [laughs]. And I was interested in finding an erotic language that would be interesting for women. So for me the whole idea of the touch is very important, and one feels the flesh as the most important part of what’s happening.

Narrator: Semmel was part of an early generation of feminist artists, who wanted their art to have a personal and political impact on their contemporaries. To hear more from Semmel, please tap your screen.


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