It’s hard to describe the drawings and paintings featured in Erotica Asheville without sounding like I’m attempting to explain the anatomy of human reproduction. Suffice it to say, these aren’t your average studio sketches. And the poses they capture are not those of an academic arts background — though they may have been learned elsewhere while at school.
So what are they? They’re both hard to look at and hard to look away from. They’re seductive, enticing and beautiful. And they’re only on view for a few days.
Erotica Asheville, which opens Saturday, Jan. 17 at The Asheville Loft, a third-floor gallery located above Stuf Antiques on Broadway, is the first in what founder and organizer Zack Rains hopes to be a series of annual exhibitions. The show openly celebrates what Rains’ sees as an existing yet dormant sub-culture within Asheville’s arts scene: erotic art.
Rains’ inaugural show features roughly 25 works by himself and fellow Asheville-based painters Allie Good and Taiyo La Paix, Johnston City, Tenn.-based painter Mira Gerard and Jonesboro, Tenn. makeup artist Ren Allen. The exhibition will be on view for only one week. And unless you’re going to the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival, which has a special viewing the following week, this Saturday is likely to be your only chance to see the show.
The featured works range from soft, classically-rendered figure drawings and nude sketches to neon-toned paintings of a nightmarish subjects — and appendages — and bulbous demi-goddesses backdropped by golden-hued landscapes. Some are subtle, leaving the imagination to wander. Others hide nothing.
“Taiyo has always been the sensual type,” Rains says. “He’s the quiet romantic, while Allie has always been the rebel — she walks a fine line between what is sexually explicit and what is grotesque.” Gerard’s work, he notes, boasts a dark, moody, sensual feel. Allen’s work will be improvised on a male and a female model just before the reception — and thus only on view for the opening.
“For this first show I intentionally stuck to painting and the graphic line,” Rains says. “It’s easier to digest, easier to approach.” The narrowed styles of work also allow for a gentler approach, so to speak, in introducing Erotica Asheville to the public arts community.
The works also double as a surrogate a greater conversation: “We’re trying to break down the taboos around owning one’s sexuality.” The artworks, Rains says, become the vehicles for discussing sexuality and associated, but often touchy, topics — particularly AIDS in the homosexual community.
“Younger generations are separated from the 1980s and the AIDS epidemic,” Rains says. “I wanted to create a dialogue about that. It’s a way of introducing sexuality and responsibility together, of getting viewers and community members alike to embrace their status.”
Erotica Asheville opens Saturday, Jan. 17, and is on view through Saturday, Jan. 24. The reception is a benefit for the Western North Carolina AIDS Project. Proceeds from the sale of artwork will help fund WNCAP. From 7 to 8 p.m. there will be a ticketed reception, which also benefits WNCAP, that will feature aphrodisiacs — not hors d’oeuvres — and drink pairings. The general public is invited from 8 to 10 p.m. This event is 21 and up. For more information visit www.theashevilleloft.com.