Last year we had the chance to speak with the talented painter Armando Cabba about his creative process. Between portraiture and life in quarantine, he explained the origins of his erotic renaissance. He’s been outspoken about censorship and proving social media discriminates against members of the LGBTQ+ community and sex workers for well over a year now. Instagram rolled out their new terms of service last month and it’s been harming these marginalized communities along with muting sex positive and sex education accounts.
Many voices are being heard in regards to these new changes and most have joined together to push back against the platform’s policies. We decided to get back into contact with Cabba and he hasn’t left his post since the last time we heard from him.
Is it safe to say you’re upset regarding Instagram’s new Terms of Service?
Oh boy, when I received that ominous email regarding the new rules, I had a flashback to Tumblr immediately and so did others on the platform. Both had the same date just a couple years apart. It’s online gentrification. Pushing out a marginalized group for the comfort of mediocre white people. White comfort outweighs the livelihood of others unfortunately. They’ll accept nudity, pole dancing, and all that when it’s rebranded by whatever blue check marked verified slim trust fund blond trying to sell a product. I’m pretty sure Bella Thorne believes she invented OnlyFans. I won’t be surprised the day we see Kylie Jenner post a photo in a bikini with one single pubic hair poking out and the mainstream media will label her as a ground-breaking feminist icon for it.
Has your work been reported and taken down at all?
3 pieces did. All butt related activities which is interesting and makes me wonder what happened between the IG head chief of censorship and his rear end because it feels personal. I guess it’s easier to hit delete than buy a bottle of lube? Honestly, I know it got reported because they’ve stayed up on other accounts I play around with. Regardless of who, someone committed a butt fueled vengeful act on my work. Bottom line is if you don’t like an account’s content, just block and don’t report it. You’re interfering with someone’s livelihood because a lot of us use Instagram for our careers. That creator is also put on thin ice regarding the rules and can be hit again for no reason in the future. Your ignorance impacts lives a lot more than you think.
Have the guidelines impacted how you paint?
Yes and no. We are in an age where art does fall into a category of being “instagramable” meaning if viewers are most likely going to take photos of it or if it’s posted that it’ll look good on the platform to get maximum engagement. There’s a difference between artists and Instagram artists. There’s a higher level of anxiety now when I want to post something. The biblical references help keep them up and further prove the problems with the platform. Plus let’s not forget I’m a white guy here, so I’ll get off with a slap on the wrists because of the whole history of everything since the dawn of time. The risk I take posting something isn’t as big as someone who is a POC or openly identifies as a sex worker. Everything is stacked against them and I can’t imagine the amount of stress they experience creating because Instagram can delete everything they worked for quicker than you can blink. No one should feel their art is wrong and be punished by a corporation of all things when they just want to share it with the world.
Do you feel erotic artists should be more vocal on the subject of censorship and sex worker rights?
100% It’s frustrating to see big accounts be silent with all that’s going on. I understand you’re comfy, making money, got book deals, gallery contracts, and that’s not my issue. Get your coins. My problem with them is that you aren’t doing the bare minimum to support the individuals who essentially are the subject of your work. You can’t be an erotic artist if you’re not pro sex work. I’ve tried reaching out them but they refuse to read the room. The fact they barely follow any sex education or sex worker accounts blows my mind. I’m tired of seeing posts where they show they got work removed as some form of clout badge showing us “I’m too hot to handle” It’s like wanting to have the explicit content warning on your album because you know it will sell more. I’m not preaching cancel culture because I believe they can do better. If you’re upset about this, start acting like it and fight. Use your platform to make a difference. Whatever the issue is, you should be supporting the artists that support you.
Are there any accounts you’d recommend where people can get informed about the issue of online censorship?
There are so many wonderful individuals spreading awareness and fighting what’s going on. For direct action and ways you can help right now, check out Carolina Are (@bloggeronpole) who put the petition together that’s now over 100k signatures. Rebecca Crow (@riotsandcrows) who creates very informative and right to the point videos regarding censorship and the reality of sex work. Elle Stanger (@stripperwriter) put together posts explaining the harm of SESTA/FOSTA along with revealing the true nature of anti-porn crusaders like ExodusCry. Lips (lips_zine) created a new platform for people to have freedom of expression without harassment or biased censorship. These are only a few I’ve mentioned, but definitely worth following. You got to listen to them. Most of what I’ve learnt has been from them and I’m grateful for it.
You mentioned previously that you were hesitant to include POC in a previous interview and now you’ve created a very diverse erotic collection. How was that transition for you?
I was hesitant as I mentioned, but I realized I had to try. These paintings are made from a place of love and honouring the beauty of all sexualities and identities. Personally, I think that’s why I don’t have the “male gaze” in my work. I don’t paint what I paint with the undertone of “This is what gets me hard. Deal with it” thus objectifying the individuals which Is a problem with most male erotic artists out there. I paint my subjects the same way someone paints a landscape. It’s the beauty of nature. I feel bad I held back for as long as I did out of fear of creating a bigger problem, but the response to it was incredibly positive. Sex is for everyone and I want people to know and understand that it isn’t something that’s shameful or limited to a certain group of individuals. Whatever you’re into is completely fine and I want you to feel like art when you see my work because that’s exactly what you are.
Where do you feel your art has been most accepted? Has it helped change the meaning in any way?
The sex positive/educators you find online. Accounts that promote healthy information regarding sexuality and feminist ideas have been incredibly supportive. Words can’t describe how thankful I am to feel just a tiny bit a part of that and how my work is helping in a way I wasn’t really thinking about when I started. They helped me see the positive of what I was doing back when I was too focused on being a royal pain in the ass for the people up top. This series is about acceptance in all meanings of the word. After a long time of searching around to belong, I finally feel like I have some form of a home. They’re kind of stuck with me now. I’ll always be in their corner.
Was there a community you had in mind that you wanted to be a part of?
I was hoping to be a part of the censorship organizations specifically surrounding art but I was rejected. I reached out with my work, offered my platform, and emailed them that I wanted to help, but I was deemed “too much” and told to “try someone else”. I even experience the 21st century overthinking induced nightmare of just simply being left on read by some of them. It hurts when you want to help and the door gets slammed in your face, but It’s a feeling I know too well in the art circles. All that said, I’m still going to paint and do what I can with or without them.
Do you feel you have a place at the table when it comes to speaking out against censorship?
I’m not concerned with where I sit at this table or even if I can see the table or if I’m in the same room as this said table. If it’s an IKEA table I’d hope to be invited to the store to pick it up so I can get meatballs. I’m not at the helm of this issue nor am I the champion of it. I’m doing my part to listen and share resources to spread awareness. I’m trying to use my privilege to show you there’s a problem with how things work. There are voices that need to be amplified and heard. For the people who want an answer to this musical chair question, I’m not going to sit down anytime soon when there’s still work that needs to be done.