“The mouth is a gateway to the mind,” says provocative celebrity photographer Tyler Shields in reference to his Mouthful. It recently sold at Sotheby’s sale Erotic: Passion and Desire Online that took place Feb. 5-12th.
Known as Hollywood’s favorite photographer, Shields has also been dubbed the Warhol of his generation. Shield’s is a master of making headlines and is never one to shy away from bold, unique creations. His work doesn’t just get people talking, but also makes them feel.
Offered exclusively online, the Sotheby’s sale featured a remarkable breadth of paintings, photographs, film posters, books, drawings and more. The works represented the finest in eroticism from around the world, including Shields’ much-loved Mouthful, which originally debuted in Los Angeles in 2012. The Sotheby’s exhibition was on view in their London galleries on February 6, 7, 8, and 11. Shields’ lot sold for $23,750 GBP, well above the estimate.
The chromogenic print displays four rows of a lavishly lipsticked mouth, 16 images in total stretching across the 40in x 60in, flush-mounted to foam-board piece. This particular Shields’ work evokes such themes as icon, celebrity, Hollywood glamour and, of course, the erotic.
Erotic, that six-letter word that Shields cherishes, has been attributed to many of his works, including Mouthful. He takes it as a compliment. “Good art makes you think, great art makes you feel and if you see an image and it feels erotic to you then the artist has done their job. For me, when I am making something I like to let it take its own form and if it is meant to be erotic it will be,” said the photographer in a recent interview with Martin Dean.
It’s what’s on the inside that’s always mattered, Tyler Shields says of his work. He’s not looking to create perfect images or immaculate renderings of celebrities. Rather, he’s looking to see what they have going on inside, what’s yearning to come out in the heat of the moment. This candid story told in a sequence of mouths where lips become doors to the soul fits that mold.
Shields has been known to use some hardcore methods in his shoots. These methods inspire powerful, visceral works. Shields has had his subjects axe down payphones, cradle glitter on their tongues, fall from great heights in panda masks, use military-grade pepper spray, hang out of windows or atop bridge railings, and even set fire to a $100,000 Hermes Birkin bag before finishing it off with a chainsaw.
It’s this avant-garde, no holds barred methodology that has his subjects begging for more when you think they’d be running for the hills. Shields’ models often call on him to reshoot them like addicts who are hooked on the thrill of the experience.
Pushing the envelope is something very few artists ever fully realize or accomplish. Yet, it’s something that Tyler Shields does on a regular basis, forever moving the yardstick further into the unknown. To make matters more interesting, the mouth in the Mouthful images just so happens to belong to Shields’ girlfriend at the time, Francesca Fisher-Eastwood, daughter of Clint Eastwood. Some say this makes the images even more personal, intimate and raw.
And it’s not the first time lips have been featured in the Shields’ works. They have appeared numerous times in his color explosive poesy, a recurring motif of sorts. After this recent sale at Sotheby’s, it’s clear that Shields is not only a celebrated photographer on course for greatness, but he’s also not the only one interested in mouths.