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2012 Juried Art Show Opens at the Grunwald Gallery

Fans of art, sexuality and their frequent intersection showed up in droves at the Grunwald Gallery for the opening of the Kinsey Institute’s 2012 Juried Art Show. The evening of Friday, May 18 saw local and out-of-state guests alike enjoying over one hundred works exploring human sexuality, gender and reproduction.

“Transgression is part of telling the truth about sex,” said longtime Bloomington artist David Ebbinghouse, who showed his metalwork piece “Intersection” in the exhibition. “Kinsey got a lot of flak and probably would have been fired if it weren’t for Herman Wells… I thought, I should go with my feelings of transgression.”

Bonnie Schupp's photograph entitled "Gender is a Continuum"
Bonnie Schupp, "Gender is a Continuum"

Ebbinghouse’s minimalist work demonstrates the importance of context in human conceptions of the erotic. “If I put a piece like this in a sex show, people see it as an erotic thing,” the artist explained. “It becomes like a Rorschach test."
For other pieces, the artist’s message is more direct.

“Gender is not a binary,” asserted Baltimore artist Bonnie Schupp. Her photographic still life “Gender is a Continuum” illustrates a full array of gender possibilities. Reminiscent of the “Kinsey Scale”, which acknowledges a range of expressions of sexual desire, the piece challenges the societal notion that masculinity and femininity are mutually exclusive.
 “As soon as a baby is born, everyone asks, is it a boy? Is it a girl?” Schupp continued. “It’s not so black and white.”

For New York artist Catherine Kirkpatrick, photographic portraiture can tell stories about gender that are often made invisible. “It’s about women’s lives, women’s memories and women’s experiences," said Kirkpatrick of her series “Silent Echoes.”

“The day my mother died, my father had a heart attack and a stroke. I had to take care of him,” Kirkpatrick said. This period of her life exemplified the way care and labor are distributed in gendered ways, and inspired the thematic focus of “Silent Echoes.” “Women’s experiences and the burdens they shoulder have been ignored.”

Juried Art show
Opening night photo by Kevin Mooney

But this emphasis on visibility doesn’t mean Kirkpatrick is willing tell all the secrets of her exhibited piece. “If I tell you [everything], I’ll spoil it," said Kirkpatrick of “Masked Figure.” The close-up subject gazes directly into the camera, her playful smile and mysterious attire suggesting a memorable night ahead. “I think she’s looking for something. She is who she is. She’s not gonna take any shit from anyone.”

The annual Juried Art Show fulfills the Kinsey Institute’s mission of “investigating and informing the world about critical issues in sex, gender and reproduction” by providing artists with a rare space to explore taboo topics and themes.

“I’m not always accepted. This is a safe place to show it," said Wisconsin-based artist Amy Misurelli Sorensen of her featured piece “Defensive Back.” The work is from a series of drawings called “Pin-ups” that incorporates both strength and vulnerability in its depictions of women.

Jillian Van Volkenburgh's photograph entitled "Composition 131: Patience and James"
Jillian Van Volkenburgh, "Composition 131: Patience and James"

Artist Jillian Van Volkenburgh travelled to the opening from outside Chicago and discussed the complex union of content and form in her exhibited work, “Composition 131: Patience and James." “It’s a very non-threatening piece with a very threatening subject matter," said Van Volkenburgh. The photograph uses “opposites in color, composition and gender” to focus on transgender experience and identity. Van Volkenburgh purposefully photographed close friends to create this picture. In fact, model James accompanied her to the opening. In an exhibition full of explosive images, several artists discussed the delicate business of representing real people in erotic art.

“I don’t want to ever talk anybody into doing anything they’d feel uncomfortable about later,” said Chicago artist George C. Clark. “When I work with models, they do all of their own poses.” “Camel Saddle” is Clark’s second painting to be exhibited in a Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show. Both this submission and his 2009 entry have featured the same camel saddle, which Clark found years ago in a catalogue for his mother’s gift shop. “In a way I’m doing the same thing over and over again, but not really,” said Clark of drawing from life. “Every person I draw is different and every pose is different.”

Ebbinghouse agrees: in art, context can make all the difference.

Bell-Zeitlin family
Members of Esther Zeitlin's family gather around her painting, On the Orgy of Species. Photo by Jennifer Bass

“There’s no objective reality- we see things through a filter. Two different people look at your work and both say, ‘I loved it!' Then they talk about it and they thought totally different things.”

Visitors to the gallery should expect to experience the contradiction that often follows reflection on the role of sexuality in public life.

The Juried Art Show will be on exhibition in the Grunwald Gallery until July 21. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 12:00 to 4:00 pm, when visitors over 18 are welcome to enjoy the multi-media collection.

Artworks from the 2012 Juried Show are also online at kinseyinstitute.org.


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