D for desire, I for intense, R for revealing …

Feb 12, 2003 at 12:00 am

It’s billed as erotic, controversial, disgusting, shocking and just plain dirty. But just how dirty is the fourth annual “dirty” show, an erotic art extravaganza opening at the Museum of New Art (MONA) on Valentine’s Day? Well … it’s pretty dirty. But, unless you’re in the seventh grade or don’t own a television set, you may not find much to get profoundly shocked over. Grossed out or offended, maybe. Titillated, fair chance.

In plain terms, “dirty” is more of a hedonists’ ball than anything to do with authentically controversial artwork. (The show’s creator Jerry Vile terms it “Caligula-esque.”) It’s an opportunity to revel in lowbrow culture, thumb your nose (or whatever) at all things puritanical and otherwise indulge those pervy, voyeuristic or juvenile impulses. Oh yeah, and to buy something you’ll have to turn toward the wall when Mom drops by. Judging by past years’ turnouts, plenty of Detroiters will pack MONA’s second-floor Book Building suite this weekend to do just that.

Attendees can expect a slew of paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and mixed-media pieces by both established and unknown Detroit visual artists. (In some cases, I’d be tempted to get all pretentious and add a set of quotation marks around the phrase “visual artist,” unless by “visual” you mean “disturbed” and by “artist” you mean “person who may not have gotten within groping distance of a female since before the last two presidential administrations and may admire the music of Ted Nugent.”)

Some of the show’s pieces bring to mind a couple of stoner guys in my high school art class (betcha there were a few in yours too) who excelled at drawing elaborate and highly imaginative renderings of stuff like cannabis leaves, decomposing skulls and half-naked chicks brandishing automatic weapons. One guy wore knee-length moccasin boots and a belt buckle fashioned to look like a woman’s hand. Which pretty much eliminates my need to elaborate.

There are twisted gags aplenty, like a series of “cat porn” photos — cats lying on their backs or cleaning one another — which just goes to show that dirty is in the eye of the beholder. Or SpongeBob SquarePants surrounded by frolicking sea nymphs. Or the old paint-something-naughty-on-another-painting shtick. Or a little-too-lovingly forged cast iron — um — member, complete with prickly metal hairs.

Revelers will encounter the obligatory fetish photos, along with conventional nudes and garden-variety Hot Chick and Random Sex Act illustrations (see high school stoner art reference above).

There are also some genuinely provocative and interesting works, like Ron Zakrin’s painting of a campfire with strategically arranged logs and flames. Those who recall the winning entry from last year’s Metro Times Photo Contest will recognize a certain flame-haired model in a series by Chris Gustafson.

About a third of the show’s art is purported to be from women artists, most notably Niagara, Tracee Miller and Rachael Reed (whose painted and bespangled bras will be modeled at the show by roving vixens). Other better-known contributors include Mark Arminsky (who has submitted a rather patriotic, very velvety tribute to Larry Flynt), illustrator Glenn Barr, Matt Gordon, Paul Snyder and Dave Krieger.

Art prices range anywhere from $100 to $5,000 but average around $250.

Other “dirty” festivities will include barely clad babes sporting pasties, transsexual beverage servers, “go-go boys,” twisted puppeteers the Gepetto Files, dominatrix Lady Pain, and several performance poets reciting their erotic odes. Burlesque shows will be performed on both Friday and Saturday nights (with both acts featuring the Metro Times’ very own Sarah Klein). Other features (such as a kissing booth of a particularly unsavory sort, several installation pieces and various performance acts) remain a secret.

The show, organized by Glenn Barr along with Jeremy Harvey and Jerry Vile, is sponsored in part by the San Francisco lowbrow art mag Juxtapoz. If you can brush off the overplayed “ooh, how shocking” vibe, these three evenings just might offer a real surprise or two. And keep an eye out for a guy wearing a ladyfinger belt buckle. I’d give him $20 for it — now that I’d frame.


The “dirty” show runs three nights — Friday, Feb. 14, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 15, 7-11 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 16, 1-5 p.m. — at the Museum of New Art (MONA), 1249 Washington Blvd. (second floor of the Book Building), Detroit. Call 313-961-2845 for more info.

Christina Kallery writes about installation and performance for Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected]