Writing about the Dirty Show naturally requires a description of the Dirty Show - and that, gentle reader, is when the oils frequently hit the canvas for reporter, editor and publisher alike. So we're treading (and typing) very carefully from here on in.
Twelve years ago, Jerry Vile and his personal orbit of friends and colleagues at Orbit magazine decided that an exhibit giving free rein to the erotic imagination would do nicely for both Valentine's Day and the city's close-knit community of artists. A plan was drawn up (yes, on a cocktail napkin), invitations were sent out, and the show went off without a hitch ... in Vile's office, of course, since no gallery or venue would come near it at the time. Not that it mattered really, since all this was intended from the start to be "en famille". The participants were creative, lively Detroiters who knew each other (among the honored firsts: Niagara, Glenn Barr, and Jeremy Harvey) and the decision to plan a second show came with no ambitious plan or even desire to expand the original guest list.
Welcome to 2011. Today "The Dirty Show" requires almost year-long planning, an exhibition space that can safely accommodate hundreds of submitted works, a constantly maintained web-site, and an equally constant degree of communication with foreign artists whose numbers increase with every passing year - and whose participation eventually led to "The Dirty Show" to become an internationally recognized and respected exhibit. The only constant that hasn't changed is the proud fact that for everyone involved this is still very much a Detroit event and the local contingent is always present with a roster of impressive and talented names.
But what exactly does the Dirty Show strive for in the way of art or creative expression? What will you see if you choose to go?
It would probably require a monograph to answer those questions clearly and justly. We will simply put forward the historical fact that the physical-erotic nature of human beings has ALWAYS been a subjective theme for artists. Parallel with that assertion is the eternal debate over what should be accepted as art and what shouldn't be - a debate that is only "resolved" in the mind of the individual viewing the works in question. Be advised that there is no uniform style or approach at the Dirty Show. Odds are (and hopefully) you will see paintings, photographs, and sculpture that will strike you as being beautiful, ethereal, or even spiritual. It is an absolutely safe bet that your eyes will also fall on things that prompt far more different adjectives from you. And if this warehouse of contradictory evidence also prompts a renewed interest in that aforementioned debate, so much the better.
Sara Gage and Lorenzo H.E. are two collaborating artists who have submitted works to the forthcoming Dirty Show. We asked them a few questions about the exhibit and how they feel about being first-time participants.
You are the duo known as Eroticolor, correct? A description of your combined efforts, please.
Sara – Eroticolor is the fabulous, sexy creation shared between Lorenzo and I! It started a little over 5 months ago when we were introduced online. We (as of Feb 5th, 2011) have never met, live 5000 miles apart, are divided by an ocean and do all of the collaborative information exchange online - neither of us even speak each other's native tongues fluently. I think when we first started Eroticolor we had no idea that it would magnify into what is has become – the volume of our work, the intensity of the not just the project but our dynamic with each other and not to mention - where it has led us to so quickly!
Lorenzo - “Eroticolor” is more the beginning chapter of our collaboration, the name of the opening scene. Eroticolor is the “teaser” so to speak - un mot magique!
With Eroticolor one of us has to define the principle of the image while the other waits with such desire, such anticipation to build off of that principle and vice versa. Eroticolor is our game between creator and creature. Which leaves us asking “who runs this Eroticolor world?”.
We can’t really speak of “effort” when it comes from pleasure. Immediately we understood the vision of each other. We use our own secret language to create and then propose the fiction of our story-line. The work is for spectators to view (without subtitles) and then attempt to interpret what is discretely happening behind the imagery.
The technique used by Lorenzo: a photo taken of you then serves as the template for a painting. How many of these works have been done and what medium is used?
Sara - Our Eroticolor is now 7 paintings and over 700 photographs. All the photographs are self portraits and shot using a DSLR, a point and shoot digital camera or a Macbook. Sometimes I use professional studio lighting, sometimes available light. There are no set rules on how I should capture the images other then the rule of making sure it gets documented. Lorenzo then takes these images and overlays them with a dose of his beautiful grit and text portraying his physical and emotional reaction with vintage B-movie poster phrases from the 40s, 50s and 60s. For the paintings and posters Lorenzo uses my images as a direct visual reference to what he illustrates.
Is this the first time you and Lorenzo have participated in the Dirty Show? What is your personal opinion of this annual Detroit exhibit?
Sara - Actually Dirty Show is our US debut! We are Artists that project “erotic visualization” so of course we were immediately drawn to Dirty. Dirty Show is the world's largest and most reputable Erotic Art Exhibit – Dirty Show has Featured so many BIG NAME artists - not just the who's who of erotic artists but Low-Brow superstars and notable Contemporary Artists like Kenneth Josephson, Jill Greenberg, Frederic Fontenoy, There are rumors Mike Kelley is going to be in this years Dirty Show! Chas Ray Kryder, who introduced us online, has been in the Dirty Show! There is really nothing like this anywhere else in the world! We had no idea that it would grow this large - being featured for the Dirty Show! It is a GREAT honor to debut at Dirty Show and an ever GREATER honor to be one of the select artists to be featured!
What to you is purely erotic in art and conversely, what strikes you as self-defeating in work of this nature? When does an artist "fail" or blur the line so to speak?
Lorenzo - I guess that eroticism is REALLY something that we do NOT show. Maybe the limit for the failure lies in the ability of imagination of the others.
Who makes the rules? Who has the Codex on how Eroticism is to defined? It's as Oscar Wilde writes about literature "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all." It's really not of my business to judge where to draw the lines in “Erotic Art.”
How does the subject of a painting view the finished painting? Especially a painting that is intended to strike chords of an intimate nature?
Sara - I think it would be fair to say that it is my constant intention is to “strike Lorenzo's chord”. I know that Lorenzo can not only capture this through his work but also unveil what I have been holding back from him, what I am intentionally hiding from him. I know that he will take something I made, that some would say could be “finished product” and revamp it into something that will completely shock you, nail it with such direct honesty and beauty and desire that you can't help but to want MORE. And more times the not – it brings things into light that him or I may of not known about ourselves. This project keeps growing and intensifying – and we absolutely adore it! Neither one of us intend to stop our beautiful seductive sub creature of a collaboration anytime soon!