UPDATED: Adult Community Mourning Loss of Carlos Batts

LOS ANGELES—Members of the adult industry were expressing their shock and disbelief today upon hearing of the death of Carlos Batts.

The 40-year-old unexpectedly passed away Tuesday night. An official cause of death is pending a coroner's ruling.

Batts, who was also known as C. Batts Fly, was an artist, photographer and director. His artwork appeared on book covers and album covers, as well as in music videos and movies. He also had several internationally distributed hardbound coffee table books that showcase his artistic approach to photography: Wild Skin (Edition Ruess, 2001), Crazy Sexy Hollywood (Edition Ruess, 2003), American Gothic (Scapegoat Publishing, 2005) and Fat Girl (Rare Bird Publishing, 2013).

Batts has directed the independent feature film Voluptuous Biker Babes as well underground art films American Gothic and April Flores World.

Much of his work centered on and around the love of his life, wife April Flores.

"I'm just in shock," Flores told AVN. "I still don't know what happened."

Flores and Batts were practically inseparable since first meeting, and their relationship is the stuff of legends: Boy and girl meet, it's love at first sight, and they live happily every after.

"We had our whole lives planned out, but now we won't have that," Flores said.

She did say she is getting support from friends and family who love her and Carlos, and wants people to continue to celebrate his life, artistic vision and creativity.

Performer Sinnamon Love told AVN she and her boyfriend, musician Jarobi White, became friends with Batts and Flores while attending The Feminist Porn Mini-Conference in Santa Barbara. Love said Batts was a fan of White’s band A Tribe Called Quest and they, in turn, were fans of his art and his muse, Flores.

“I am having an incredibly difficult time putting into words how I feel right now, and have been fighting back tears all day,” Love wrote in a tribute post. “I adored Carlos, not only because he was a brilliant gift to this world, artistically and humanely, but because when I saw the way he looked at his wonderful wife April, I recognized that look ... as that is the way my partner looks at me.

“He & Jarobi hit it off immediately, taking off for the beach while April & I were having lunch with our peers at our conference at UCSB. Listening to him speak about his work recently, he said he would rather shoot school yearbook pictures or weddings than to film something that he hated. He was that type of Man,” she continued. “Speaking to April this afternoon, I was at a loss for words. I still don't know what to say to comfort her loss. I can only hope all our friends and her family near by can wrap her in Love in this unimaginable time of need. I will never understand why so many of the good guys must die, while so many complete assholes still walk this earth.

“Carlos, we all love you & will miss you ... and we will take care of your lover, your friend & your muse in your absence. Girl Scout promise.”

White echoed Love’s thoughts, and posted on Instagram about the news.

“I hate that I'm making this post right now. R.I.P Carlos Batts a.k.a C. Batts Fly,” he wrote. “I usually don't take to new people. We met, hit it off immediately. Super talented, super cool guy. You will be missed homie.”

Other friends and acquaintances of Batts took to social media sites Tuesday to express their love and adoration for the man.

“Mourning the tremendous and unexpected loss of one of my best friends, Carlos Batts, who passed away last night,” photographer Steve Goedde posted on Facebook. “Carlos and I moved to LA roughly at the same time about 15 years ago and stayed close ever since. He was an exceptionally nice guy, great artist, and lovingly devoted husband to the love of his life [April]. We're all in shock and disbelief. Please keep his family and [April] in your thoughts. Remember that any of us can leave at any moment and thus shouldn't take life for granted. Let the people that are close to you know how much you love and cherish them. Carlos, you will remain in our hearts forever. Thanks for the many years of friendship and support.”

Wright Williams, adult industry SEO consultant, also posted on Facebook about the artist: “RIP Carlos Batts. While I only spoke with you in regards to business dealings, you were always very friendly, and your art speaks for itself. I wish your wife and family, your friends and industry colleagues good blessings and peace.”

From phtographer Rae Threat: “Just found out the news that my friend and extremely talented artist/photographer/inspiration, Carlos Batts, passed away last night. My thoughts are with his wife, family, and all our extended friends. This is a tremendous loss. He was a true inspiration to me—one of the very few, and … I'm just in total shock right now. You were one of a kind, Carlos. Thank you for everything—your advice, your kindness, your art, everything. R.I.P.”

“I am in utter shock,” director Ramzi Abed posted. “I do not understand anything. I never have. I never will. Life is way too short. Life is way too precious. I just now heard that my friend, Carlos Batts, passed away. I am devastated. Please keep his wife … in your heart and thoughts. My love goes out to both of them. I can not express anything much more right now, as I am truly in shock.”

An August article on TheRumpus.com profiled Batts and Flores and their journey making “big, sexy art together.”

“Art is the strongest form of activism,” Batts said in the interview. “Art encompasses everything. It encompasses the queer movement, fat activism, racism, all the ‘isms’—that’s our job. We’re not supposed to be total consumers … even though I want to be rich and have a million dollar boat, but my motivation is to cross boundaries and create a dialogue, and that’s what I’ve done it for since I was a kid.”

AVN.com will post more details and remembrances as they become available.

Update: Erica McLean, who co-directed the 2010 Cal Vista release Alice with Batts, issued the following statement to AVN: "I'm shocked and saddened by the news of Carlos' death and I send my deepest prayers and sympathies to his partner April Flores and to his family. He's now resting in the arms of the angels."

Update: Mireille Miller-Young, Ph.D., and associate professor of feminist studies at University of California Santa Barbara, sent AVN this tribute to Carlos:

"I am heartbroken at this huge loss for the art world, the porn community, and especially for the feminist, queer, and indie porn community. Carlos was extremely talented, a visionary artist, and a kind and completely ethical person. He was respected by artists, curators, performers, filmmakers, producers, and academics and I only hope that as a result of his passing that those who were not familiar with his work come to discover it.

"Carlos and April participated in two conferences that I organized or helped to organize around the publication of The Feminist Porn Book, which I co-edited with feminist porn director and sex educator Tristan Taormino, and my academic colleagues at UCSB Constance Penley and Celine Parrenas Shimizu and in which April Flores is a contributing author. The first conference, The Feminist Porn Conference, was at University of Toronto on April 6, and followed The Feminist Porn Awards that is put on by Good For Her, a feminist sex emporium there. The conference that I put on, The Feminist Porn Mini Con, took place at UC Santa Barbara on May 8, and Carlos and April were part of the keynote panel (which also included Dylan Ryan, Sinnamon Love, Jiz Lee, the FPB editors, and professor Kevin Heffernan from Southern Methodist University) and they also were part of an interactive workshop with our students where they presented their work and discussed their careers, and sexual representation in a small group format.

"Carlos Batts importantly saw himself as a feminist pornographer, and he was conscious of what it means to be a man and a feminist. He spoke out about the need for more porn that is made in a way that is ethically made as a kind of collaboration with workers, that represents racial and body type diversity, and that pushes back against the formulaic market for porn for men and straight couples to explore instead a range of desires, identities, and pleasures for women, men, and trans people. 
"Carlos was part of the emerging feminist porn movement that we write about in the Feminist Porn Book, as a filmmaker and artist, and as the key collaborator with his muse April Flores. April writes in our book about the need to produce porn with what she calls fat women, that isn't just for a BBW market of men who like that particular fetish, but is for voluptuous women to see themselves as gorgeous and compelling erotic beings. Carlos made that possible. He made fat aesthetically beautiful, interesting, and layered, and he had the vision to make April appear as the dynamic performer and model that she is. If only other porn directors could learn from him!
"Carlos was very important for the international academic community that works on 'porn studies.' His work so vitally links porn to its artistic roots in the Golden Age of film, when directors really wanted to tell a story, to the radically political sexual art of people like Robert Mapplethorpe, and to a tradition set out by John Waters of crossing porn with high art, music, and fashion. Carlos was raised in Baltimore and John Waters actually shot Cry Baby with Traci Lords and Johnnie Depp at his middle school. He was influenced by camp, horror, sexploitation, independent film, high art, sports photography, graffiti, punk, rap, and industrial electronic music. He was attended to all these important cultural trends of the last 40 years, and to the political battles we endure for the right to sexual speech and expression.  In many ways he was an outsider in the business but at the same time he represented the heart the business is searching to reconnect to after years of overproduction of product and underproduction of creativity. He was the future the business needed and he will be sorely sorely missed. 
"Also, I will say, as a professor of pornography and sex work studies who is writing about the history of black women in the adult film business, Carlos is a great loss to the black porn community. He was one of the few black men directing and the only one who had training as a filmmaker. He presented women of color in a sexy, artistic, and glamorous light, which is rare for them in this business. There are too few people of color in positions of creative and economic power in the business and I hope that those that are coming up look to Carlos's work as a model for how to hone their craft and how to treat others with respect. 
"Finally, I want to say that when he came and spoke at UCSB for our mini-con in front of a packed room of 300 people, he rocked the house and really inspired our students. Both he and April were this power team that inspired and impressed my students and colleagues here at UCSB. They were shining examples of the kind of thoughtful, creative, and generous people there are in the porn world, which is something that always surprises students with all of their stereotypes about what porn is and does. I was planning to have them up again this year to talk about their new book Fat Girl ...

Photo of Carlos Batts from the 2011 AVN Awards red carpet by Glenn/EMMReport.com.