Natacha Merritt (b. 1977, San Francisco) is an artist, writer and biologist. At age 20, her intimate and explicit series of portraits and self-portraits documenting her sexual history caused a sensation when she published them on her website www.digitalgirly.com. Her first book, Digital-Diaries (2000, Taschen), an erotic exploration at the dawn of the digital era, quickly became a critically acclaimed international best-seller, shifting over 300,000 copies and being featured in publications as diverse as The Observer, Playboy, The Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone.
Following the spectacular success of the book, Merritt embarked on a series of diverse art projects and high-profile collaborations. She spoke at conferences as diverse as Ars Electronica on Next Sex: Sex in the Age of Procreative Superfluousness or the design conference AGideas (Melbourne, Australia). In 2000 she starred, shot and edited D-life (heralded as one of the first Internet reality miniseries) with two fellow artists, in collaboration with Heavy.com (later picked up by Warner Bros). From 2003-2004, Merritt was invited to be one of the creators for the Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity (NYNY Hotel and Casino), an exploration of sensuality and peak human performance, for which she created large-scale multimedia projections from erotic images she had captured of the performers.
An accomplished artist and producer, Merritt was ready for a new challenge and soon developed a passion for biology - “the ultimate exploration of life,” she says. She returned to higher education in 2005 to study biology at the San Francisco State University, specialising in Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology. Now a trained scientist, she sees this passion as a natural extension of her interest in sex. The rigours of science revealed a wealth of deeper creativity and subject matter: “Not only are these incredibly varied life forms extraordinary in their beauty, but they are an integral part of our ecosystem and greatly impact the quality of our lives,” she says.
In 2008, while deep in her studies of biology, she wrote an ‘insect circus’ inspired by her observations of the insect world and celebrating the importance of biodiversity. She licensed the rights to Cirque du Soleil and the circus became OVO, still touring.
Merritt’s academic research led her to investigate the sexual and reproductive practices of other species. Thus began work on a new photo book, Sexual Selection, a comparative artistic study of sex in the human, plant and insect worlds, released in May 2012 through Berlin-based arthouse Bongoût.
Merritt’s recent work highlights how our morphologies are intimately linked to other species through shared and convergent evolution. While proposing a new feminist stance, Merritt incorporates scientific insights with her artistic practice. Her new work unveils an untapped sexual beauty and eroticism hidden within all species.
I see the commonality between my fetishes and morphological characteristics that have been selected for in nature.
Sometimes I feel absurd when I’m not being obscene.
I probably just have a dirty mind, but man there some fantastic sexually explicit material in the evolutionary biology literature.
Species distinctions...It’s what splits us apart, or brings us together
I have developed a lusciously surreal intimacy with plants. They have become akin to potential lovers.
Sensuality captures my attention more than anything else.
“The tapetum in the eye will still shine for an hour or so after you kill him” [said the master arachnologist.]
Suspect sexual selection when the mating behavior is bizarre, elaborate or extravagant
When turned on, life makes sense.
This is a branch of biology that gets unbelievably kinky and gloriously twisted.
The most exciting relationships between the life forms are often parasitic
Suspect sexual selection when the mating behavior is bizarre, elaborate or extravagant.
But the plant kisses never need to cease… We need each other.
After watching the spider erection, I had pleasure on my mind.
“Normal” gets more layered colorful. Better.