â€œTo know the difference between erotica and pornography you must first know the difference between naked and nude.â€
–Bernard Poulin, painter.
Drop the word â€œeroticâ€ into a conversation and youâ€™ll likely invoke vivid imagery for all within earshot. And while this perfectly valid word is capable of arousing memories and other sensual associations, some of which may be tied to the strict dictionary definition, no other word is more highly contested when applied to works of art. Ask a dozen people what constitutes erotic art and there may be a dozen different answers.
But where in Oklahoma would one find an art gallery that dares to pose such an evocative question while celebrating the very idea with a huge two-day party? Look no further than the historic film district in downtown Oklahoma City. This weekend, Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery (IAO Gallery, 706 W. Sheridan Ave.) hosts the most comprehensive annual erotic art show in the state: Biting the Apple.
â€œHonestly, an intelligent erotic art festival is a rare opportunity in and of itself,â€ said Kristina Carson, first-time IAO Gallery committee member. â€œThe event shows that even though we are a small city in such a conservative state, we are still capable of stepping outside the proverbial box and creating an event that pushes the envelope in an ever-developing arts culture. Biting the Apple truly shows Oklahoma Cityâ€™s respect for the arts.â€
Made by Dawn Williams
Carson’s favorite memory of the show was her first attendance, where she realized that there were others just like her who wouldnâ€™t have ever imagined going to an event such as Biting the Apple. Carson discovered that not only she did she enjoy it, she felt more comfortable in an environment that was different from any of the other art festivals around.
Trent Lawson – Health Living (I want to be inside you)
Clint Stone, Executive Director for the IAO Gallery, said that the gallery organized its first Biting the Apple erotic art show over 20 years ago when figurative painters were unable to display their nude works in any of the galleries at the time. And although it originally started as a forum to exhibit nude paintings, it very quickly expanded into a show that featured not only erotica, but it went on to encompass other media such as photography, sculpture, and fiber works. Today the show includes all artistic mediums.
Made by Violet Shallot
â€œYes, our mission is to show art that is provocative, that is aesthetic or progressive in media, but erotic art has always been around,â€ Stone said. His point of reference is one of the first known sculptures, a figure known as the Woman of Willendorf, a mysterious and curvaceous depiction of the female body allegedly meant to entice fertility. Artists over time have portrayed nudity with various intentions, often erotically charged; Stone points to such artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Gustav Klimt, and Egon Schiele, who not only made erotic art, but saw it as their primary genre.
Art history aside, why did the IAO Galleryâ€™s committee choose Grindhouse for this yearâ€™s Biting the Apple theme?
Stone said during the IAO Galleryâ€™s committee meetings, which brainstorm in December and January to decide the theme, that members had noticed a trend among independent filmmakers that had focused on the Grindhouse style of cinema. While the double feature showing of Deathproof and Planet Terror brought the name “Grindhouse” out of the closet for the public, the term came from something else entirely. The trend reminded the committee members of 42nd street and burlesque clubs, which were called Grindhouses for the type of dances that women performed on stage.
The type of dance performed back then isnâ€™t something seen today in contemporary adult clubs; these dances used props like large fans to provocatively show little bits here and there. The suggestive nature of these performances led to the term “Grindhouses” as a way to describe the venues. However, when films that featured nudity came into the theaters from Europe, the Grindhouses slowly started to disappear. But in the 60s and 70s, as film became cheaper, independent filmmakers made B-movies that would then be shown in these old Grindhouses. Fast-forward to 2011 and Grindhouse films and burlesque acts are rising in popularity again, especially in Oklahoma.
Made by Sean Jackson
Given the history of Grindhouses, he said the committee chose the theme because they believed it would allow all types of artists to find a niche somewhere in the many decades spanning back to the original Grindhouses and burlesque acts.
So what do the artists think of the theme and Biting the Apple?
Marcus Eakers, who received his education in Art and Design at UCO, is an artist featured in this yearâ€™s show. His piece that will be on display is called â€œDevâ€ and is acrylic paint on 12 x 12 art panel. He researched the history of both Grindhouse and burlesque dancers. His piece is the result of mixing what he found with his artistic approach.
â€œBiting the Apple serves as an outlet for artists to break out of their box once a year and do some work that freely expresses the beauty and aesthetic of sexuality,â€ Eakers said. â€œAnd it is great that IAO pushes Oklahoma to be more progressive with show like this.â€
With all the discussion and research put into it, what other kinds of entries did IAO net?
Stone said they will have video, poetry, photography, sculptures, fiber work, burlesque performances and many other types of media. He said the artists and the gallery split any sale of artwork 50-50 and that the event is the galleryâ€™s largest fundraiser for the year. And although Biting The Apple brings in around 8 percent of the galleryâ€™s yearly operating budget, Stone said that the eventâ€™s impact not only increases the galleryâ€™s profile in the community, but also helps to promote memberships.
Brett Deering, setting up his piece Study #5 and others
“Still Life: Gallery Hanging.” Ahem.
Trent Lawson takes a gander at his piece and the spacing on the walls
Nick Bayer, Jenn Barron, Trent Lawson, and Brett Deering examining their hanging efforts
So whether youâ€™ve never been or youâ€™ve already dusted off last yearâ€™s outfit you might be wondering whatâ€™s different and whatâ€™s the same?
In past years attendees have been treated to improv, performance art with nearly nude women as walking canvases, and eclectic crowds. This year Stone said attendees should expect to see the boudoir photography booth again, many mediums of art, and lots of yummy food catered by the likes of 105 degrees and other local favorites.
â€œOne of our performers this year is Lienke Mous, a modern dance professor at the University of Oklahoma,â€ said Marilyn Artus, IAO Galleryâ€™s Vice President of the Board. â€œMiss Mous is creating a dance piece especially for Biting the Apple. And the crowd that attends is a huge part of the fun as well. They often dress in costumes or just wild outfits that they would never wear anywhere but at an erotic art show.â€
Artus said often eroticism and sexuality get a bad rap, when in actuality they are rich experiences that humans can explore in a healthy age-appropriate way. And Biting the Apple provides a venue for artists and attendees alike to experience the erotic in an artfully fun way.
IAO Gallery, a modern staple in the historic film district
Tickets for Biting the Apple Gallery de Grindhouse: Silk Stocking Sirens and Beefcake Boys can be purchased for $20.00 for one night, or $35.00 for two nights, online at Ticketstorm.com or in person at Blue 7. The event runs from April 15th to the 16th. Doors open at 7 p.m. and close at midnight. IAO Gallery is located at 706 W. Sheridan Ave. in Oklahoma City.
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