The return of Valentine’s Day also means the return of a tradition displaying erotic and salacious artwork created by students and area artists.
“Love Will Tear Us Apart,” a premise inspired by songwriter Ian Curtis of the ’70s post-punk band Joy Division was the theme for the Glove Factory’s 18thannual “Love at the Glove” art show. One of the exhibition’s organizers, Patrick Westra, a senior from Carbondale studying art, said he meant to capture a darker side of Valentine’s Day.
“I wanted to go with more of an anti-Valentine’s Day theme because that is often more challenging or against the grain,” Westra said. “So I went with something more personal, closer to my own work since I had such a huge part in putting everything together.”
Westra’s six pieces included three screen prints, an etching and two ceramic masks. One of the masks had devil horns and the other substituted a human penis for a nose. Westra said these pieces were influenced by horror movies including “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Halloween.”
Westra’s artwork also conveyed religious connotations.
“A lot of my artwork is based on either religious or psychedelic themes, and love is typically associated with God,” he said. “People are aware that God doesn’t treat the ones that love him so well.”
Craig Ross, another show organizer and a senior from Springfield studying art, used his pieces to reimagine a personal experience in New Orleans. Ross, who identifies as bisexual, was walking down the street when a drunken man called him queer for wearing jean shorts and a pink shirt, he said.
“I really didn’t know how to react to it because I’ve never really – other than grade school – had that thrown as a slur to me,” Ross said.
Ross presented three comics painted on woodcut, collectively titled “What Happened: A Comic Triptych.” Each four-paneled comic created with uniformed lines of red, black and white ink reimagined how Ross could have responded to being called queer.
One scene showed him decapitating the man with a guillotine; in his second response, he hit on the intoxicated man; and in what Ross said was the most accurate portrayal, he appeared depressed as he walked away from the scene. “I’ve done pieces in the past that were explicitly sexual pieces,” Ross said. “But with this, I thought it fit for ‘Love at the Glove’ because it was me kind of dealing with my own sexuality.”
The various displays of eroticism were not intended to appall viewers but to make people feel comfortable with sexuality in art, said artist Kelly Ahrens, a senior from Lake Zurich studying art.
“Once you’re so surrounded by (sexuality in art), you kind of feel less offended,” she said. “You start to see it for what it is; you can actually appreciate it for the content of the art piece.”
Ahrens displayed a self-portrait that combined hyper-geometric lines, hatching to show shades and pop pastel colors to capture the reality of skin color. She said she often uses that style for show fliers at Hangar 9 and other local shows.
While some artwork was more straightforward in portraying sexual content, other pieces were more subtle or ambiguous. “The Nova Express,” created by an artist named Lauren, appeared to show sperm cells penetrating a female egg. The wax and spray-painted piece featured a thick layer of bluish and violent paint dripping into a circle of splattered yellow, orange and red paint and a multi-colored glittery background.
A creative demonstration of a broken television intended to show a pornographic GIF, but the screen was not functioning as planned. However, the piece managed to be relevant at the gallery, as the cracked television screen inadvertently resembled the shape of a female egg being penetrated by sperm cells.
Another piece called “27 Years of Heartache” by SIU alumn Katey Karayiannis featured 27 heart-shaped lockets dangling from nails lined up in a single row. Karayiannis also had a sculpture made of terracotta and acrylic that featured a naked woman posing on top of a giant sleeping cat.
The V2T2 Cabaret provided entertainment, and musical performances by The Flowers of Evil, The Heat Tape and WINGTIPS buzzed throughout the four-hour exhibition. Cristaudo’s and Longbranch Coffeehouse also provided free cakes with erotic displays to guests.
Dylan Frost can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @DFrost90 or 536-3311 ext. 254.