Celebrating the erotic

A busy opening night for the eclectic 7th Annual Erotic Art Show

STRANGERS IN PARADISE James Vickers checks out Danielle Kantrowitz’s painting “Elleina” at the Daily Grind.

STRANGERS IN PARADISE James Vickers checks out Danielle Kantrowitz’s painting “Elleina” at the Daily Grind.

photo by Tom Angel

The 7th Annual Erotic Art Show
The Daily Grind, On display through Dec. 14th

Organizers of the 7th Annual Erotic Art Show, currently on display at the Daily Grind coffee house downtown, must be pleased with the number of people they are reaching with their message—opening night last Friday, Nov. 30, was a packed party. Not everyone was in on the masquerade theme, but those who were masked and decked out in see-through and skin-tight outfits added to the fantastic atmosphere. There was a DJ playing all the crowd pleasers and optionally suggestive snacks offered to satiate the masses. People came and saw and went all night, but the crowd inside remained consistently large at this eclectic, erotic celebration. Those in attendance seemed to be feeling proud, inspired and aroused.

The exhibition, sponsored by the Women’s Center, an Associated Students organization at California State University at Chico, intends to celebrate “the erotic” as part of one’s self that is often ignored or degraded. Students and community members were invited to submit works to a small jury composed of Women’s Center administrators and employees who were looking for work that addresses women, gender roles and expectations, identity, the body and sexuality.

Most entries made the final cut, and the result is a collection of pieces almost overwhelming in variety of subject matter, media, and style and process within media.

Klutch Stanaway’s submission “Friction” was a real favorite at the party on opening night. The artist hung a bicycle seat that had worn down from three months of use and shredded to reveal the gel filling. Not only was there talk about it, it was fascinating to watch many of them reach out and touch it throughout the evening.

With the exception of Stanaway’s piece, the rest of the works in the gallery feature the human figure, most often representations of female nudes.

Some feel nostalgic, recalling an erotic episode, like Aaron Knight’s pencil drawing of dropping jeans and a half moon titled “My First Time.” Danielle Kantrowitz’s painting “Elleina” depicts a woman dressed in desirable trappings just right of center, the space above her head divided by a definite diagonal line, and above that her booted feet and legs come down from the top of the canvas—as if caught between frames in a film, floating in a space with no physical references, as the artist might remember her and this moment.

Christina Massey’s painting “Busy” is perhaps the most visually complex, with a staccato grid of cubic planes that magnify and undulate images of flowers, patterned cloth, small houses, and a large nude figure whose foot looks pressed up against, and almost through, the surface of the canvas.

There are more overtly political pieces, like Bobbie Jones’ larger painting “Death of Shame,” where comparatively realistic fragments of female forms and more mysterious figures morph together like a fluid collage. Sadnah’s ceramic piece, one of the few sculptures in the exhibition, titled “Strive to be Free,” shows a female nude figure represented as an enclosed volume with seashells as her vaginal opening. Her face and head are covered by aesthetically heavy drapes of clay, reminiscent (in these times) of a berqa.

There were many indications in the reactions to the work that proved the point the organizers of this event make about Western perceptions of erotic art in their exhibition statement. However, much of the work tends to seem forced or contrived. Many of the artists resort to using extraneous written words to give their pieces more power. The photography was probably the most accessible (I caught many attendees using Sarah Reid’s collection of 20 black-and-white photographs of midriffs held together with silver paper clip chains—a pleasant linear echo—to play "chose your favorite belly-button.")