The artist known as Alphachanneling uses Instagram to share a dreamy world of soft psychedelic sexuality where brilliant lotus flowers burst from the tips of candy-colored penises. The images are surreal and seductive, and tens of thousands of “likes” appear to agree.
But Alphachanneling worries each day may be their last on Instagram.
“This morning when I woke up, I saw yesterday’s post was removed,” they said. “I’ve had my account deleted before, and it has this feeling of a sandcastle that you keep building, but a wave can just erase it in the second.”
Alphachanneling, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, posts fast and posts a lot. They describe their methodology as “spontaneous and loose.” The pace is the opposite of the traditional artist’s laborious trajectory, where months or years of work have the sole goal of landing in a museum or gallery. Instead, Instagram offers a chance to promote an artistic vision that might be seen for a matter of seconds.
While the process has been one of growth and self-discovery, the San Francisco Bay area artist feels plagued by the precarious nature of Instagram. The erotic artists we spoke to say Instagram has expanded their reach, but the platform’s guidelines leave them never knowing what might lead to a post’s being removed, their account suspended, or worse, their Instagram existence deleted and purged forever.
“There’s an irony to how perfect social media is for art,” Alphachanneling said. “But at the same time, it’s so precarious. One never knows if it’ll be there the next time they check their phone.”
Nikki Peck, an artist from Vancouver who goes by @BonerCandy69, tried to make her work Instagram-appropriate by creating a second account and placing bow and flower emoji over genitals and breasts. Still, her accounts have been deleted twice. “So I made my current account and cross my fingers. I’ve had a bunch of posts removed, and I know I’m always at risk.”
Peck worked in galleries and museums and for corporate commissions before starting her erotic body of work. She sees her account as an exploration of the classic female nude with contemporary social commentary. While she’s been surprised by the pushback of both the platform and some of its users, she has accepted it as a sign of success. “Art should be bold, and it should create conversation and dialogue,” she says. “Otherwise, you’re just making comics.”