The San Francisco artist who calls himself Alphachanneling has regularly been featured as one of the best online erotic creators of recent years. Until he published his book of collected works in 2018, it was his Instagram feed which provided his growing audience with a regular supply of colourful drawings featuring entwined, highly sexual bodies, often inhabiting a lush jungle teeming with vines, petals and leaves.
Why ‘Alphachanneling’? In true Bay Area hippy-psychedelic tradition he describes alphachanneling as ‘a simple thought experiment, a sanctified space within my imagination, the exclusive realm of all that amplifies me; my dreams, my joys, my desire, entirely free of self-censorship. I call this personal space The Utopian Erotic, and the boundaries of this world are simple: all the good things, only the good things.’ Although he maintains that he’s trying to avoid a male-centric expression as an artist, and many of his audience have assumed from his use of pastel colours that Alphachanneling must be a woman, there are signs that he can sometimes tend towards a more conventional male-dominant, penetrative model of sexuality.
Alphachanneling’s works can look almost like children’s book illustrations, their soft palette and breezy lines conjuring a magical realm just outside the everyday. Look closer, however, and you’ll notice a couple sixty-nining, or a man eating out a giant flower, or a woman perched atop her lover’s face. For the artist, the key to finding his enchanted pleasure dome is striking a balance between the sacred and the profane without any sense of embarrassment. He explains, ‘What I think it takes is for anyone to be attracted to something comes from being activated by it, being in tune with it, being open to themself and who they are in relationship. It’s a really important feeling.’ Much of Alphachanneling’s work is inspired by Taoist tradition, in which expressing sexuality is an essential part of being in touch with the divine.
When asked about his influences, Alphachanneling mentions indigenous art, Robert Crumb’s drawings, BDSM, and Federico Fellini’s dream journals – ‘He documented his dreams every day, had to get them out on paper, often as simple drawings. I identify with that. I don’t need to make it beautiful, I just need to get it on paper. A lot of children’s art doesn’t always make sense, but you can tell that it comes directly from their world of experience and impression. They’re vessels for a larger meaning, a way of opening up the viewer to different kinds of energy.’
Given its notorious censorship policy, Instagram can be a unstable platform for displaying erotic content, but Alphachanneling appears to have made peace with the insecurity. ‘I’m aware that what I’m making could disappear any second. It’s a weird feeling to be on that edge, like my work is a sandcastle that a wave could pull down any minute. But I like the feeling that I’m creating a stream of ideas and communication.’ His book and website have added permanence and commercial security to his project, and it will be interesting to see how his work develops.