The aesthetics of sex
Art department faculty members titillate viewers with Nine
Their faces, caught in a split second of ecstasy and pleasure, were twisted, contorted into a thrust of tongue and lips.
The digital image clung to my senses; the intensity of the artwork swept over me.
Peter Goin’s “The Kiss,” a large digital photographic image, caught my eye immediately when I walked into Sheppard Gallery for the Nine: 2002 Faculty Exhibition. The exhibit, which gives art professors and lecturers an opportunity to display their art, consists of photography and digital, sculpture and ceramics, mixed media and painting.
In “The Kiss,” distorted, dark colors and the wavering image kept me from discerning who the two lovers were. The two faces were hidden by shadows and cacophonic colors. But if I had known who they were, if I were able to discern whether they were woman and man, man and man, or woman and woman, the piece would have lost its depth, its mysteriousness, its sensuality, its appeal.
In this dark and humorous peek into the digitally modified and restructured world of reality and fantasy, one wonders, Is it reality? Or is fantasy? Just as the faces, lines and colors were distorted, the line that wavered between reality and fantasy was also muddied, which left me feeling unsettled and intrigued.
I walked on, curious to see what else the exhibit had to offer.
In Joanna Frueh’s “The Aesthetics of Orgasm,” a tantalizing combination of photo and objects, an ornate, iridescent crystal bowl was filled partially with water. Luscious pink roses floated atop. A black and white photo above the bowl showed a sensual and seductive Frueh, wearing only high heels. Frueh, facing away from the camera, appeared seductive and sultry, aggressive and vulnerable, muscular and arching. In text placed near the photo, she explains:
“When we’re full of pleasure, we’re beautifully plump, like round hips and bellies and like muscles too. In orgasm, our being itself swells.”
The bowl of roses and photograph are suggestive, without suggesting shame. Her art encourages openness in sexuality and acceptance of pleasure in a way that I found refreshing and thought-provoking.
Goin and Frueh’s sexual ambivalence works in the exhibition. The artwork by other faculty members presented in Nine was more abstract, less emotional in comparison. It didn’t titillate or provoke me into wonderment.
However, in Nine there is something for everyone—whether it’s dark and brooding, light and relaxing, mysterious and complex, or sexy and seductive. Nine, in fact, is an unlikely title for this exhibit, since, although it gives an illusion of unity, it doesn’t imply that there is indeed something for everyone.
I just happened to opt for the sexy and seductive.