When was the last time you saw a haunting and haughty figurative piece from Larry Bell? Or a tall, deliciously sinuous metal feminine from Frank Seckler? Well, get ready for a mega blast of sensuous Taos talent and more in Studio 107-B's "Erotica" on Taos Plaza.
The focus of this February exhibit is the pull of the erotic, as opposed to the sale of the pornographic. That's especially important in this new era of exposing sexual harassment, lack of consent and, most ignominious of all, objectification.
The best distinction I have come up with is that pornography is only for profit, period. Erotica is an exploration of eros, the essence and aesthetic of the life force in all its mystery.
Multimedia artist, writer and musician Art Durkee goes further, saying pornography's sex mania "is truly eros defiled, or misdirected love and compassion. Mania leads to power over others, while eros leads to power with. As the saying goes, which would you choose: The love of power, or the power of love?" (artdurkee.blogspot.com/2007/03/erotica-vs-pornography).
Eros is indeed compelling, and artists are perhaps better equipped to explore the depths and ecstacies of eros than most of us with more pedestrian curiosity and talent.
Chatting with Izumi Yokoyama a few hours before the show's opening Saturday (Feb. 10), she filled me in on an example of tradition spurring real and embroidered erotic realities of Japanese culture. She was born in Japan in 1980.
"Japan is the only place where there are pinky finger prosthetics," she said, pointing to the amputated little finger dripping blood in a long, slow line and pooling at the base of her small pen and ink piece titled "Lunacy." It's one of three she has entered in the show.
In "Lunacy," Yokoyama evokes the Japanese tradition where the "red thread" is tied on your pinkie finger and is connected to the person you're meant to be with for the rest of your life.
"In cutting off your little finger and sending it to the one you love, but are forbidden to love … " she finds there a powerful mix of eroticism, horror and fascination. "I wouldn't cut my finger off, but I do admire the commitment of someone who would do that."
The pinkie prosthesis, by the way, is used to protect ex-Yakuza members, she said, who have betrayed the gang somehow and are punished with pinkie removal, preventing any prospect of successful employment if you show up for an interview, minus digit number five. The prostheses guarantee you'll get work and stand a chance to survive and maybe even thrive.
Another mix of passion, compassion and sacrifice is in Iva Morris's oil on canvas triptych titled, "Rapture." Caught in the act of hanging the gallery with husband Brian O'Connor, Morris admits to fascination with the whole process of relationships. Morris and her husband are artists from Veguita.
"This is part of an ongoing series about marriage, and middle age and catastrophes," Morris said. "Things that happen in life - like my youngest son getting sick, my daughter moving to New York, a flood - and the resilience and rapture, a yin and yang of relationships, and motherhood, you know?"
The centerpiece of the triptych is the upper torso of a woman with arms outstretched, eyes closed or perhaps she's exhausted and unconscious (maybe even dead?), with dollar bills and roses floating everywhere. The two flanking pieces are a man and a woman, each in their own frame, screaming or yelling, eyes closed, emotionally beyond their limits and gerbera flowers floating in and around their heads.
"There's a suggestion of masochism, masochistic pain and passion, all mixed in," Morris explained about her process in the painting. "That's why I put the roses in, kind of like the smell of the roses and the smell of money, kind of an olfactory experience."
An art teacher of grades K-12 in Socorro and Belen in southern New Mexico for years, she said she finds ageism to be generous in this state, given the deep-running respect of Native and Hispanic traditions that honor the wisdom and love of elders. This tradition is contrary to most Anglo cultures she's encountered in her lifetime.
The exhibit's announcement artwork, O'Connor's large oil, "Target," depicts nine or 10 people in various stages of dress (with one nude), a horror piece inspired by Abu Ghraib prison tortures during the Iraq war. But it went wrong, he admitted wryly. He invited friends over one day to stage the piece, and they had so much fun posing in a pile, their goodness shows through, instead of the tortured consciousness that spawned such heinous crimes against humanity.
Barry Dinowitz's total abstract caused owner-curator-contributor Máye Torres to ask, "Now what's erotic about this piece, Barry?"
And he replied in typical Dinowitzian fashion, "It's the paint! Loovk at that juicy color!" OK. You gotta see this.
Twenty hugely talented artists are in the new show, including, Taos artists Patrick Brady, Tammy Dobos, Gretchen Ewert, Stephen Kilborn, Huberto Maestas, Roger Martínez, Augustine Mirabal, Michael Naranjo, Anita Rodríguez, Dustin Sweet, Dan Vigil, Michael Vigil, Sasha vom Dorp and Torres.
I don't have enough room to do them all justice, so best to hie yourself and a friend or two down to Studio 107-B for a day or three during February to catch this great show by some of Taos' truly great. Enjoy.
For more information, call the venue at (575) 779-7832.