Sure, Michelangelo's nude sculpture "David" is art, but what about a phallic money clip or a penis-shaped pull toy? Art can be sensual, but what about titillating? Where is the line between Venus and the Victoria's Secret catalog?
Just in time for Valentine's Day, local artists will navigate the gray area between erotic and classical interpretations of the human body in "Eros & Art," an exhibition opening at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery. The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 28 and will feature the work of Mark Daughhetee, Ken De-Roux, Paul Gardinier, Kathleen Weist, Jim Fowler, Sybil Davis, Michael Hunter, Brad Ponack, Jim Hopkins, Heidi Reifenstein, John Symons and Jay Crondahl.
"Why is there a such a tradition of painting nudes - is it because they are such a challenge like a landscape, or is it because the artist gets to spend hours and hours in the studio with a nude model, or is it a little bit of both?" asked photographer Daughhetee.
Daughhetee and Davis photographed a sculpted, alabaster-skinned female model. Daughhetee's prints are small color shots that portray intimate and abstracted views of belly, torso and a bikini area covered in red fall leaves. Davis used longer, more traditional angles, creating classical nude portraits she describes as "archetypal."
"It was interesting working with another photographer," Daughhetee said. "I am used to being in complete control; a lot of this was more spontaneous."
Artist Gardinier created a more irreverent, literal sculpture - a "penis pull-toy," carved out of wood.
"I like to use satire in my work and I thought it was a funny idea to imagine men being pulled around by their penises," he said. "And, with some women, it isn't hard to pull men around."
Images of women's bodies are everywhere in popular media, but portraying male anatomy in art is a little bit taboo, despite the fact that the phallic form is a design staple everywhere from architecture to bombs, Gardinier said.
He modeled his pull-toy after vintage pull-toys representing ducks and dachshunds he found on the online marketplace eBay, he said.
"You pull it and it bobs up and down," he said.
DeRoux has created a multi-media painting/drawing on paper using acrylics, crayon and images from the Kama Sutra, among other things.
"My work evolved from figure drawing, I combined it with some sexual imagery, Asian love miniatures," DeRoux said. "Whether people will find it erotic or not is hard to say."
DeRoux said he defines art as something that has lasting value, and Daughhetee agreed, saying art is informed by culture. In American culture where sex is a tremendous marketing tool, it makes sense that sex shows up in artwork. Art reflects the values and standards of culture, they said.
"I think the job of the artist is to test some of those standards," Daughhetee said.
Davis stressed that the show is tasteful and said it should not be described as erotic, but rather sensual.
"This show has got a variety of things including a gorgeous mask made of alder, and there is absolutely nothing sexual about it," she said. "It is just luscious to the touch."