The Art of Food & Touch: The Making of a Pleasure Activist

“For your health & happiness remember two things: eat well & make Love.” Tiberio Simone

Wandering a beautiful art & music festival in Tidewater, Oregon this past summer, I stumbled upon a live art installation that immediately seized my attention and held me in rapt wonder for its duration.

A beautiful female form lay upon soft green moss, face hidden by a mandala of fruit art, surrounded by giant crystals, cacti, and trees. A man, quite clearly the artist, precisely placed an array of paper-thin sliced fruit along her body with skilled swiftness, delicacy, & intense focus.  Dozens of people milled about, some stopping to take in this rare and utterly unique spectacle, others moving past on their way to enjoy the music, food, or people of the festival. The event around us disappeared as I witnessed the art being created.

One thing in particular struck me. While the model had no restraint keeping her there – no ropes, nothing to fight against, completely free to sit up and walk away at any moment—this was still one of the most pronounced displays of submission and surrender I had ever encountered. There were moments where I saw her shudder, clearly breathing through intense sensation, as if bound.  But while she could have walked away, it was clear that for the sake of the art, she wouldn’t dare move. Here lay a gorgeous, almost-naked woman, tender and vulnerable, quivering with intense sensation, but daring not to move a single inch, simply in devotion to the art being made upon the canvas of her body.

Soon enough, like all things Living and of great Beauty, there came an end point. And like a sand mandala being poured into a river, the impermanence of life itself was reflected as the model sat up, being sheltered and supported by the artist, fruit falling off her body back to the earth from which it came.

Being moved by the art I’d witnessed & photographed, I wanted to learn more… Recently I had the honor of interviewing the artist, Tiberio Simone and also received a statement of the experience from the model, Mischa Estrada. Please enjoy the interview conducted for Amant.

~ Ariel White, Founder of Amant


Describe your art? How did you get started?

My art is about Love… About the love of food and of life. I come from a hard background, from being homeless growing up in Italy… And I discovered that food + touch = life. No food, no touch? No life.

If you don’t have good food or good touch, you don’t have anything. You need good food & you need good touch. Then you will do well – you will be happy & energized and then you can serve others. Your body already knows this. [I asked myself] If good food & good touch are the basics of life, how will I express that as an artist?

Tiberio’s philosophy comes down to food & touch being the basic ingredients of life.

[In this art] I wanted to go as basic as I could go… To show food & touch.

And what better way than showing fruit on the body?

As a trained chef of Italian origin, he began by looking to women & the earth for inspiration to create culinary art:

Women & Nature are beautiful.

Women are teachers to me. I wish I were a woman!

So Tiberio did an in-depth art study to understand women, where he worked with over 400 women to create chocolate sculptures of their vulvas.

I created beautiful chocolate vaginas. Women have always been blamed for everything in history; a powerful woman was blamed and would be a witch.

The movie Dangerous Beauty, is a classic example.

I studied 400 women to see what every woman has in common with other women. I took what they have in common with each other and created 7 levels in chocolate sculptures.

I love women & wanted to know more about women. And I received a deep education [through this process].

The 7 levels of scent & flavor all women have in common that Tiberio mapped out were: salt, citrus, a hint of sage, lavender, cinnamon mixed with cumin, chilies, & lavender with a hint of fennel.

 

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The 400 women who took part in this art project were aged from 18—85 from all different backgrounds, with different body shape, size, ethnicity, age, some mothers, others not.

Then I started expanding the art – by putting fruit on the body…

I had sex workers getting dressed up as courtesans at festivals – transformed into Goddesses.

I would put fruit on women at events that guests could take off their body. And everyone would go to the nipple! They would objectify the women. But I didn’t want women to be seen as sex objects, I want them to be seen as a Goddess.

So Tiberio teamed up with photographer, Matt Freedman, to create an art book called “La Figa” with 160 full-color images and over 40 essays on food & love.

If someone wanted to model for me, I would ask them a question: ‘If there would be a next lifetime, and you knew you’d come back as one edible ingredient, fruit or vegetable… what would it be? Why? Think of who you are, what region you’re from, etc.’

The answers to this question would be the initial launching point for Tiberio to pair fruits and vegetables with his subject’s body. It would also spur self-discovery as people earnestly inquired into their heritage, what fruits & vegetables grew in their ancestral homeland, and what qualities they wanted to express through taste and color while deepening their connection with the earth.

Men are much more shy than women. Women are more sensual and comfortable with their bodies. I also discovered that the “best looking” models were generally the most insecure!

For models I wanted different shapes, different colors, different textures, and different sizes… Like fruit and vegetables, we are all different. So, I picked models that were different ages, sizes, [ethnicities], and gender.

Through the process of creating the book, Tiberio discovered so much about people and their need for loving touch. He witnessed his subjects’ hearts open as they cried from the vulnerability of the process.

Americans are not used to nudity, you’re a bunch of puritanical people.

People think the naked body is an object to be fucked rather than just the natural state of how we were born. I’m shy now to do my art because in America, it will be judged.

You say you’re a pleasure activist. What does that mean to you?

Everything I do is about pleasure.  I’m a Lover. I don’t care about whether I have an orgasm, because once I come, I am done and can’t give pleasure any more… I enjoy giving pleasure. I’m a chef – I do it with cooking too. I try to be a better person every day. Everything I do is about giving someone pleasure. Whenever I stop giving pleasure I start to feel weird. Pleasure is my purpose. I’m a sensual guy and a kinky person but everything must be consensual.

Sometimes we think we’re giving pleasure, but we’re not… So you have to check in with your partner. Don’t do anything you don’t like:  “I was doing it for you.” “Okay — but if you were doing it for me… just ask me! “

Your art is an intimate experience between you & the subject… How would you describe the experience while you’re in it?

I really fuse with their body. It’s my body; as if I’m putting the fruit on my body. I don’t know the body ahead of time or the design I’m going to do, or what ingredients are going to agree with the person’s body. I’m connected with their body – hard to describe – it’s like I become the body.

Each slice of fruit I put on their body, it’s like a kiss – it’s wet.

She feels something and I know she’s feeling something…

When I put a slice of fruit or vegetable on your body it feels like a kiss, it becomes very intimate between the person and me. The body feels it. Every slice I put on the body I know what she’s feeling; different fruit, different thickness, different texture – each slice is different.

I get really high – feeling what they are feeling – they are in heaven receiving a form of pleasure.  They can’t see the art, they can only feel it. We become one. We become parts [of the whole] – I cannot feel what she’s feeling, I can only imagine, I know vaguely but not exactly. And she doesn’t get to see the art.  But one thing we have in common is TRUST. We create something really beautiful together. We each need each other but none of us can have all [sides of the experience].

I have to receive full trust to do this process.

 

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What do you hope your models experience by being part of your creation?

I don’t even hope because I already know it changes their life. I know I’m giving them pleasure… Everyone feels it.

I’m capable of giving orgasm through the sensation of the touch. I’m giving pleasure through touch, massage, through exhibitionism, an experience they will never forget… It’s like they go into a dream. Afterwards they are high from the pleasure of the experience. They get to think about it and then they report back, with new discoveries all the time.

What is the connection you see between women’s bodies + the earth?

Because woman gives life, she is the earth.

We come from the earth, we come from women.

Women are at the center of mother earth.  All life comes from women.  A woman gave birth to me!  

The woman is the person who holds the family together, gives the nutrients, nurses the baby.  A woman, whether she’s going to have a baby or not, holds power of the mother.  The earth is feminine, Mother Earth. A woman is the earth.

How can people feel more connected to their sensuality?

It’s a practice. There’s no recipe. Connecting to your sensuality is something you have to do every day [through direct experience.]

Italians are sensual by nature: through food & art.

We love to make people feel really beautiful; we love giving pleasure.

Sensuality is tricky… it’s different than sexuality… sensuality is making love subtly all the time. It’s an art. It doesn’t matter how hot you are, we are all sensual. You can do sensuality through the eyes… Walk down the street – look someone straight in the eyes for 3 seconds, with a smile— you can change someone’s life! It can make them so happy. A smile can change lives. This is another form of sensuality, [being fully alive].

Being sensual is hard for men… You see women dancing with women… Not men dancing with men…. In Italy, men are not afraid to touch each other! We love to kiss & to look in each others’ eyes.

When men get more connected to their own feminine they can be more sensual. It’s a practice. Learn how to apologize. Be porous, open, receptive, vulnerable.

The older we get, the less touch we get. If you want to be sensual, you have to be aware… Then after a while, you don’t even think about it, it comes naturally, like a meditation.

Here in her own words, the model describes her experience of being “painted” with fruit by Tiberio:

When I was asked by Tiberio if I’d allow him to paint my body with fine shavings of fruit, little did I know what a powerfully sensual experience I was in for.

The backdrop was a crystal shrine embedded into the mossy base of an elegant tree. We were only 50 meters from the main stage but I felt serene. As I draped my body into the moss, Tiberio began.

His touch was like a whisper.  Each stroke of his placement of fruit or vegetable sent a little shiver down my spine.  

He worked up from my feet, which were surprisingly erotic.

I allowed myself to be the canvas.  As he licked each parcel before placement, it was as if he was teasing me, enticing me to turn on. When Tiberio completely covered my eyes with a passion fruit; that was it! Mi dio! I never felt anything like this before. I was completely taken by the experience and surrendered to it.

Mischa Estrada, 50 yrs old, Seattle.  Yoga teacher & custom Mala maker

 

About Tiberio Simone:

Born in Neviano, a small town in the “boot heel” of Southern Italy, chef-author and cultural provocateur Tiberio Simone is also an award-winning food artist. After a stint as an elite paratrooper in the Italian Special Forces, love brought him to Seattle where he joined the restaurant industry. In 1995, while pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel, Simone won a James Beard Award for one of his signature chocolate creations. Now the owner of La Figa Catering, Simone shares his love of food and sensuality by nourishing others with his culinary delights. He is also a popular and passionate speaker about his vision of a life made full through a diet of both food and sensual touch.

www.lafigaproject.com

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