Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yes, I bought some "Sex at the X"

If I address negative comments about talk radio assentingly, somebody calls me a "disgruntled ex-employee." If I admire a host or am interested in a topic, I am branded an apologist or defender of bad things.
Yes, I used to work at radio stations in Florida and Southeastern New England. Back when a kid could get pretty far up the corporate ladder with a clear speaking voice and an English degree. But not too far if the ladder only has four rungs and you're the fifth guy hired. (Here: Learn where the best deals are on the coffee, and get a car that works in the snow. There.)
It's been fifteen years since I've been on the air, and the last time I saw anyone from the last station I worked at, the old guy had me confused with another guy who left the station at around the same time I left. Unfortunately, the old guy had me confused with a felon.
So much for a job reference.

It's a weird avocation as a former employee of a talk radio station to discuss talk radio. But I do so with anyone who'll listen. I admit it makes me unpleasant to some. Others appreciate my insights. But this isn't about you and me.
Newspapers like the Standard-Times or Herald have it worse than ex-employees of radio stations. If a newspaper mentions the local radio station, the claws automatically come out and inapproriate weapons are drawn. And it's always funny to hear people who are obviously both illiterate and dyslexic calling the radio station to decry the paper's liberal bias and right-wing slant. Then, there are the numerous oddball internet "forums" established by creepy psych-cases who have nothing better to do while the unemployment checks are still rolling in. They go right to the newspaper's own online presence, register with the newspaper, and then proceed to bash the living daylights out of every article, opinion, or letter in the paper. Right there, on the newspaper's own site. Now, that's a classy bunch.
And so, when a bunch of my friends stage an art exhibition at a privately-funded gallery in Downtown New Bedford and the kooks come out to insist they shouldn't, I take it personally. Gallery X is an artist collaborative, Executively Directed by a friend. And according to this recent article, is a welcome addition to New Bedford. I should start waving my defiance at the "uneducated and artless."
The talk radio crowd will be quick to point out that big companies won't come to the SouthCoast because we don't have a good educational or cultural scene. They will also scream and stamp their feet about paying teachers and "allowing" art they "don't get" in galleries they think their tax dollars control. They also think guards and signs and walls should keep children "under 18" from seeing the show. Sorry. Wrong. On all counts.
Because this little "controversy" keeps repeating, whenever the subject of art or sex education or honest language in film or theater is mentioned, I'll repeat myself: You do not have to like art. In a lot of cases, that's the point. And such is the case with "Sex At The X."
In a big squeamish Catholic and Calvinist community of people who've never seen themselves naked, you're bound to offend somebody when you put up an image of a penis. Whether it's a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, or a puppet in a turtleneck sweater. That looks like a penis.
It would be easy to say that "Sex At The X" is a nose-thumbing at stodgy mores, that it's a big mutinous middle finger of rebellion. But it's not. It is simply the most honest art show I've been to in a long long time. Imagine that you're living in a world of honest artists looking at sexuality, gender, nudity, and using the lexicon of artistry to encourage the debate. The strength of erotica is its honesty. If you're expecting to walk into a dimly- but tastefully-lit gallery full of photographs of demure models and strategically-hidden genitalia you might be offended.
Art is not always easy, and art that pulls back a curtain or flings open a door or looks under a bed (or on top of a bed) can be unsettling. Or funny. Or calming. Or infuriating.
But an erotic art show should not be controversial, per se. The only controversy about erotica is its definition, since the term "erotica" can illustrate so many different concepts. The discussion is what matters. At the artists' reception Saturday night, I had the opportunity to talk to a number of artists about the difference between art, erotica, and pornography.
The reception was way too short.
Yes, Mike painted a headless guy handing his skull to a nude reclining woman. The irony, and the pun, was not lost. Yes, Ellen mounted and framed merkins. Yes, Milton depicted a detailed strip club, with locally recognizable patrons. Roger's was a huge and obscene OTC ("over the couch") cartoon. Nik's tiny, detailed, intmate scenes held people's rapt attention.
I was thrilled. (No, not like that.) As a purebred SouthCoast prude with brief gusts into skinny-dipping and "frank" sex talks with hot chicks, I was glad to see the works there boldly lit and unashamed.
Too bad the show will only be up for a few more weeks, but Gallery X has a schedule, and the Tenth Anniversary High School Select show goes up March 11.
Let's hope the honest discussion continues. Especially about those high school kids...

1 comment:

ThirdMate said...

Because I forgot to mention it in the above journal entry, we did buy a beautiful drawing by a new member of Gallery X, and we're looking forward to more from her.
See? Support art where you can.