Naked Therapy (NT) is a form of talk therapy conducted via video chat founded in 2010 by Sarah White. Since then she has conducted 1000’s of hour-long NT sessions. During a session, the client and/or therapist gets naked to facilitate deeper insights through the experience of arousal. Ultimately, NT is a feminist version of Freudianism, and they have similar origins. Freud treated turn-of-the-century women, while White treats turn-of-a-different-century men. His practice was born out of mesmerization – achieved through hypnosis – and the concomitant positing of the unconscious. NT is sourced in a new form of mesmerization – men in states of online arousal – and the concomitant positing of the arousal brain. In both cases, unearthing the unconscious or arousal brain allows for transference and transformation.
Naked Therapy is trying to change the world and the way we view sex in our lives and society. I’ve got to say, I’m cheering them on. – Psychology Today
Art as Documentation
Sarah White conducted over 1,000 Naked Therapy sessions with hundreds of men. Besides developing theories of arousal’s role in motivation and insight and a male-centered therapeutic methodology, I often documented her experience through art and photography. These included:
Floor Photos: Ongoing project in which I photograph the floor after a Naked Therapy session.
Found: Found images altered by me
Panties & Cacti: Photographs of Sarah’s underwear in the desert
Portraits of Men: Photographs I took with interview text by the man in the photograph
Hotel Series: An ongoing exploration of the transient, dynamic, life-changing space of the hotel rooms in which several in-person Naked Therapy sessions were conducted
Self-Rorschachs: These images layer patterns of inner emotion and outer environment onto my body in a riff on the classic Rorschach test
Love/Hate: Some love and hate messages I have received
Meditations on Freud
All works are from 2011 or 2012 and photographs (unless otherwise noted)
Photoanalysis was a project carried out by Sarah White in collaboration with various photographers in which she sought to be a blank slate and conduit for the favorite personal and photographic styles of each photographer, allowing him/her to lead the discussion so that each photoanalysis became centered on the theme of what the photographer values. This lead to a modification of the standard model/photographer relationship and discussion vector through the schema of the therapist/client relationship. The photographer articulated his or her process and psychology, she explored my position as model/object, and the shoot often went in surprising directions. All sessions included photographs and a video work.
Below are excerpts from photoanalysis sessions which in their final presentation included a mix of photographs taken of Sarah, videos, analyses, and audio clips.
Oreste Schiavone: Danger Dreams
Nightmares turned to prophecies, psychological intimacy of shooting, electricity and showers
“Ultimately I’m engaged in the psychological processes. Like with sculpting – with the arm you just moved grab your skirt and hold it down – imagine there’s a flashlight projecting outwards from you – your entire head – your head is in a glass and you need to project your entire skull out like a lightbulb – can you do that? Keep doing that lightbulb all the way to the empire state building – pull the skirt down from the center…Photography is a journey of emotions and the final picture maybe the result of 8 hours. Sometimes there’s a lot of talking. Some of these girls I don’t know if they’re lying to me but they tell me all this crap. One girl said she’s a sex slave and I’m like really? One girl when she first started modeling had a lot of anger and you can see it in the pictures, in her eyes. It was a very deep anger that she wanted me to see.” – Oreste
Mathias Goldstein: The Last Sitting
Marilyn Monroe’s scarf, the perfect environment for seduction, and let’s pretend you’re my girlfriend
“‘It was late. All of her assistants were in the other room. My dexedrine was beginning to wear thin. I could feel fatigue creeping in. There was no reason to take any more pictures, I had shot everything I could. Marilyn moved.’ After the shoot she’s just kinda lying there, just waiting. ‘She was just laying beside me peacefully eyes closed. Maybe she wanted it.’ This is my favorite: ‘Maybe she was just waiting for me to… after all, why had she lifted up the veil and let me throw everybody out of the room? She had been in the mood for something. But what? Maybe I should kiss her. Why not? I leaned over her as my lips touched her she turned slightly away No, she said. My heart sank I felt defeated. But Marilyn did move. She didn’t scream, she didn’t sit up and slap me she just crept back into her trance.’ So first he’s really defeated but, and this is like my favorite line in the entire book: ‘But if she’d been insulted wouldn’t she have just gotten up and left? She didn’t want to kiss dot dot dot but maybe she wanted to make love. And then I put my hand under the sheet and touched her skin. The room stopped moving the room became silent and she nestled closer.’ And just like for me reading this and being like, can you imagine like if fucking Marilyn Monroe nestled closer to you what would be going on in your head you know? ‘The energy between us was magic, we were inches way from pure erotic pleasure.’ This is like porn you know! So like I read this and I was like, sign me up. Anyway, he doesn’t end up sleeping with her.” – Mathias (reading and commenting on The Last Sitting by Bert Stern)
Eddie Elmi: Just a Glimpse
Opening up, the erotics of implication, and having fun
“Photography gets me high and naturally and turns me on, shooting the beautiful natural curves of a woman is enticing to any photographer. I am like an open book, things come and go so rapidly for me that nothing is every out of bounds to discuss. I always come back to the fantasy of my being a king with many wives.” – Eddie
Christian Johnston: The Portrait
American portraiture, existential death, and finding out who you really are
“When it comes to portraiture….I feel my style is very old school. I try to do portraits that don’t feel synthetic or like a “stock” photo. I try to make the subject feel completely at ease with me and open up. I want the viewer to feel that there is a strong connection with the eyes. I love portraits that are from the 19th Century….there is an element of that in my style. With fashion I also want the model to make a connection with their eyes……not just a vacancy….you want to feel that the eyes are genuinely looking at you and there’s a connection. Sexuality is usually present and somewhat evident.” – Christian
Jon Apostol: Hotel Stories
Subversive photography, glamour addiction, staying at the Nolitan
“My photography style isn’t a reflection of your personality. Everything looks too perfect with a great amount of symmetry in the composition. There might be a bit more truth in my clown series in my personal work which reflects a bit of my quirkiness. . . yet there is still a bit of seriousness to them. But then again, I’m in the midst of changing the more addictive personality traits.” – Jon
The Black Series
Lost photos, celebrity, and will you sleep with me?
I’m in the land of sex and drugs and alcohol in the art world. You’ll look really nice naked and taking notes. i would think you’re pretty. Usually my therapists aren’t pretty. Everyone has their issues of infidelity or complacency of getting turned on by the weirdest things of being with beautiful women of working with beautiful women but wanting normalcy which doesn’t always work and wanting fame and success. Obviously infidelity and faithfulness come along with that. Men are born as hunters. – Anonymous photographer
The Censored Image and My Response (Text from 2012)
On April 19, 2012, I, Sarah White, was accepted as an artist into the West Chelsea Artists Open Studios. On May 1, 2012, I was removed from the event by the director, Scotto Mycklebust. The removal came after I submitted the image you see below as my feature art for the event’s promotional materials. I was told in an email from the director that I was being removed because my art was an “ad” and that I am a “commercial entity” and “not an artist.” In protest of this blackballing, I will hold my own Independent Open Studio on May 13 from 4 – 8 pm at the Hôtel Americano in Chelsea (518 West 27th Street, NYC). At that event I will show my work and host an open discussion forum on the issues of ads vs. art, commercial entity vs. artist, and the professional segregation of women who use the performative body provocatively. Below the following censored image can be found the full story and my response to this act of censorship.
Press: As the following cover stories on ArtInfo.com and Culturebot.net explain, there’s a “fascinating little art world tizzy” occurring around this censorship. In fact, the Culturebot critic compares my art and the controversy it’s aroused to Marina Abramovic, Damien Hirst, Marcel Duchamp, Laurel Nakadate, and Mami Kotak.
On April 19, 2012, I was accepted as a West Chelsea artist into the West Chelsea Artists Open Studios (WCAOS) after the event’s directort, viewed my photographic work and heard my plan of showing my photography and presenting a performance art piece in a room at The Hôtel Americano in Chelsea. He was fully aware of my work as The Naked Therapist.
I continued preparing for the event, and on May 1, 2012, seven minutes after submitting the piece of art you see above for my feature image, I received this email (his words, my sics):
Sorry, Sarah I cannot use this image. It is an ad and ads are not allow (sic).
I decide to remove you from the event. This is only open to practicing artists. I was very clear about that in our meeting. You are clearly a commercial entity and a not an (sic) artist.
Given that the WCAOS is an Open Studio event (not juried on the value of the art) and that I was already accepted as an artist into the event, I was quite surprised. I believe this act of censorship dangerously weighs in on artistic freedom and brings up important questions about commercialism, Internet art, and the female body.
On the issue of ad vs. art…
Why has Mr. Director decided that the image I submitted is an “ad” and not art? Is it that it contains a photo of me and that such photos have at times been used to promote my commercial activities? In that case I would point out that just like Keith Haring had a stock artistic vocabulary (exploding dog, shagging stick figures, etc.), my face, my body, Internet icons and my url’s are part of my stock artistic vocabulary. (The censored image was one in a series of images that you can view here.) Is it because it contains a url? If Damien Hirst put TheRichestArtist.org on an orange field it would sell AS ART for millions at Sotheby’s because it would be taken as a profound comment on the money-obsessed art culture. Where is the line between an “ad” and “art”? In a sense, isn’t any painting or image made by an artist not an “ad” for the artist? Artworks are indeed for sale, and images of them are passed around in exhibition checklists and other publications with the express purpose of selling.
On the issue of commercial entity vs. artist…
I put the phrases “Naked Therapy” and “The Naked Therapist” on my art as a political statement. As I point out here, I have been censored and banned from Facebook, Master’s programs, licensing institutions, the Huff Post, and now an “open” arts festival. Why? Simply because of those words. That’s why I put them on my art. To call attention to them, to rouse and challenge the emotions they cause, and to stand up for what I believe in…therapy (and art!) that accepts and engages eros.
On the issue of the female body…
I am a practicing artist. That is why I was accepted into WCAOS. For over a decade I have been a photographer whose work centers on themes of desire, body, sexuality, visibility, catharsis, Americana, e-connections and the forbidden. For the last two years I have been creating art in conversation with my Naked Therapy practice, which focuses on arousal, display, transient spaces, the Internet, the cultural quotidien, relationships, aspiration and the interplay between mentalities.
So why was I removed from the event? Based on how my removal unfolded, it would seem that Mr. Mycklebust doesn’t like what I do for a living (Naked Therapy) and he feels that my practicing Naked Therapy, along with my desire to include it in my identity as an artist and my artistic work, means I do not have the right to call myself an artist. I find this deeply troubling. This implies that if a woman utilizes the performative body provocatively in her work, she is delegitimized from using it in her art. My art is informed by the Internet, by performance art, and by commercial activities, which I don’t believe should take away my “right” to call myself an artist.
On the issue of censorship vs. freedom…
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp tried to enter a urinal as a piece of art into the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists. Entitled “Fountain,” it was rejected by the committee, even though it was stated in the rules of the exhibition that the event would accept art from any artist who paid the fee.
In 2012, I tried to enter an image that montaged a photo of a man, a photo of myself, and one of my url’s into the West Chelsea Artists Open Studio. I was then removed from the event by the director, even though it was stated on the application that the event was “open to all West Chelsea artists.”
Duchamp said the urinal was art; I say I am art.