Art meets erotica

XXXposed brings strip club culture to the art gallery

Greg Allen poses with one of his pieces in the <i>XXXposed</i> exhibit.

Greg Allen poses with one of his pieces in the XXXposed exhibit.

Photo By David Robert

For me, Reno’s cultural makeup has been permanently altered. I will not look at this town the same way again. I guess I’ve been hiding out in the safe light of day too long, visiting Reno’s well-advertised gallery exhibitions, taking notes with a well-modulated pen. I’ve missed its dark undercurrents. I’ve missed out on its nighttime art life.

That undercurrent is running swift and strong at Blue Lyon Art Studio, which has just unveiled XXXposed, a show featuring the works of 12 local artists. The subject matter: exotic dancers.

We Nevadans immediately recognize that tripling of the letter “X,” that unabashed invitation to see what some refer to lovingly as “dirty” and what others (with something closer to disgust) refer to as “filthy.” “X"s are an integral part of downtown Reno’s visual identity; now, they are invading its artistic landscape.

“You can see from the turnout that it’s time—time for a more sophisticated, urban show and medium,” said Pam Bobay, one of the show’s coordinators, explaining that the strip club scene shouldn’t be cut off from the arts and culture scene. “They’re muses,” she said of the dancers.

The exhibition had its opening reception and auction Sept. 22 at Blue Lyon, and the studio was packed. The exotic dancers in attendance wore low-cut tops and, in one case, a bikini. Artists and art patrons wore suits, dresses, jeans—one auctioneer wore a Hugh Hefner-esque bathrobe and scarf. All mingled, and all gaped at the art, which bore the scrawls of some of Reno’s hippest artists: Greg Allen, Chad Sorg and former RN&R staffer Brad Horn. Even more provocative than the names, however, were the artistic “muses,” their exoticism rendered in a new, innovative light by the artists.

Kitty. Tori. Heather. Teresa. Baring breasts, bellies, even crotches.

I stood before Chad Sorg’s section of the gallery, enjoying a collective appreciative gaze with several other patrons.

“Now this one’s disturbing,” said the gentleman next to me. “Or really … sensuous.

He spoke of “Havanna,” one of Sorg’s glossy graphic art pieces. Here, the model lies prostrate, wearing only a white tank top. Her chest rises up erotically. Her hands clutch her crotch. Her face is cut out of the composition—only her torso is shown. Her body looks twisted, contorted and absolutely free.

In Tom Baker’s “Shadows: I and II,” two photographs portray the same model in two subtly different poses. In the first photograph, the model leans gently against a wall, the left third of her face and chest visible. A warm yellow light illuminates her shoulder, cutting off into darkness just below her nipple. Her eyes are half-closed, and her face and body wear a look of controlled arousal. The photograph is warm, intimate and sultry.

In the second photo, the model’s body is pressed against the wall, her face and body wearing a look of unrestrained arousal. Aside from their visceral beauty, the brilliance of the two pieces lies in their subtle difference: One must look closely to see the change in the model’s posture and expression, to see her sexual excitement swell between the first photograph and the second.

The show brims with talent, but I found none of the pieces more arresting than Greg Allen’s “Sabrina” (oil on canvas). It’s one of the few works portraying a clothed woman, and a modestly clothed woman at that. The piece’s subtitle, however, informs us that the conservatively dressed Sabrina is an “Ecstasy addict and a nymphomaniac.” Her shoulders are hunched forward, and she stares off into the distance. She looks tragic, but also resolute, poignant and beautiful.

I hope that XXXposed sets a precedent in Reno. In the future, I will scurry to any show that has this much talent and energy—to any show that pushes artistic boundaries in the same way.