AWESOME AND UNSETTLING Aric's Fluffer.
If Batman's dark latex costume-armor actually indicated his dark sexual appetites, Curtis Aric's Fluffer might be the motorcycle he'd ride — or at least keep in the Batcave for quiet kinky nights in. It can't actually roll anywhere, but when you plug in the motor, the frame sitting between two-foot-wide racing car tires becomes one monster vibrator. There's something both awesome and kind of unsettling about the machine.
But Aric hits a sour note with a sculptural head of a lady wired to the handlebars. Its eyes are closed and its mouth open in apparent ecstasy, but there's something creepy about it. Its placement could suggest that the whole bike is the woman's body or that the head is a trophy. The mouth is smeared with red clown paint and the eyes crossed out, which in cartoon lingo can mean dead.
It's a centerpiece of "Reverse Cowgirl," a roundup of 11 Providence artists at Yellow Peril Gallery (60 Valley St, Providence, through April 14), and demonstrates both its pleasures and drawbacks. "It's important to strip away any veneers of shame and repulsion surrounding sex in art and take a more critical look at the role sex plays in our private and public lives," artist Tom West, who organized the show (and is in it), writes in introduction.
HARD AND SOFT Allyn's Boobies.
David Allyn presents a selection of faux Gucci white porcelain dildos. He's also the creator of Boobies, a mass of stoneware breasts. Tom West offers a five-foot-tall pink "pussy"-hued Crayola crayon, and Liberty, which imitates the look of pinups painted on the noses of World War II bombers with the title painted over an image of a naked lady . . . um, enjoying some anal beads.
Nori F.R. Dubusker Swennes-Croce's drawing seems to map psychedelic vibrations emanating from a vulva and ass. Jen Rydwansky's 11-foot-tall drawing reimagines a classic photo of the Roaring '20s dancer Josephine Baker protecting her modesty with strands of pearls and an American flag — as if stripping were a patriotic statement.
Dave Cole's Money Dress is a slinky evening gown hand-knit from shredded strips of $1124 in dollar bills. It's a thoughtful, elegant conceptual statement about how money, fashion, desire, and art are intertwined. But it doesn't feel smutty enough to really be at home here.
"Reverse Cowgirl" doesn't really get into the whole critical analysis thing. It's mostly expressions of lust, mainly from a straight guy hard-on perspective. Which has become a somewhat rare subject in contemporary fine art. With feminism and gay rights, expressions of straight female and LBGT desire have been thrust to the fore. Of course, that wasn't always the way.
In the West, the rise of Christianity suppressed sexuality in art for centuries. Nearly the only bare skin depicted belonged to Adams and Eves, crucified Jesuses, and martyrs who were perhaps enjoying their torture too much. A stream of sex was maintained via European painters and sculptors continuing to depict classical Greek and Roman mythology, like Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. France brought sexy back in the 18th and 19th centuries, beginning around the years leading up to their revolution. Naked ladies and straight sex become primary subjects, from Boucher to Ingres to Delacroix to Degas to Picasso. With American art of the past century rooted strongly in that French tradition, it's our legacy, too.