Eros II pushes erotic envelope on Valentine’s

by Brian Clarey

It’s the first night of a waning moon and eerie light from the celestial body seeps through thin cloud cover and lays like a shimmering glaze over downtown Greensboro, lending mystery and romance to a night already charged with these two attributes.

Valentine’s Day coincides roughly with the mating habits of birds. It signifies winter’s endgame, and while the shelves in the seasonal aisles teem with overpriced flowers and overstocked chocolates, in Greensboro Valentine’s Day for the last two years has meant you can look at pictures of naked ladies in the name of art.

Over at the Lyndon Street Artworks proprietor Erik Beerbower moves through the studio hallway in long paces. He’s mounted his piece, a bas-relief sculpture called ‘“Intuition’” of a monochromatic woman emerging from corrugated steel; he’s set out the cookies and milk and iced down the cans of Burn energy drink. He’s got a few beers stashed back in his own studio space and he’s got the video going against the big, white wall’— a montage of photographs that celebrate the splendor of the human female breast interspersed with fireworks. He takes a gulp of air and assays the situation.

It’s good. Eros II, the artworks’ annual Valentine’s Day erotic art show can begin.

‘“We’ll get probably 300 people in here throughout the night,’” Beerbower says.

He’s learned from last year’s mistake: Last year they made an attempt not to push the envelope.

‘“Last year,’” Beerbower says, ‘“we had some people from the art community walk through [the installation] the night before and kind of judge if anything was too risqué. They came back and said, ‘We loved everything.’ So this year we said, ‘Screw it.””

He pauses.

‘“I mean, it’s an erotic art show. It’s supposed to make people feel uncomfortable.’”

And yet the gathering crowd seems strangely at ease as they file through the gallery and peep at the wares.

There are lots of nudes, including some fetish photography by Jeff Griffin. ‘“Miss Audra,’” clad in strappy black latex, gathers an appreciative group. Some are whimsical, like the ethereal scene cast in oils on wood called ‘“The Disguise’” by Rachel Warren depicting a reclining nude on rolling green hills under stylized clouds, covered in leaves and watching a giant prancing cat. Some are purposefully titillating, like the ‘“Peep Show Installation’” by Kim McHone, a gallery of handmade postcards and actual peepshow boxes with vintage nudes inside. And some are ingenious, like ‘“Dirty Pictures,’” a moving installation by Allen Williams.

The piece is a modified clothes dryer with the dial settings changed to things like ‘“filthy’” and ‘“naughty.’” A couple dozen Polaroids of women undressing roll in the slow-moving tumbler and every so often one gets pressed up against the glass.

‘“I do a lot of erotic photography,’” the artist says. ‘“When the models were changing I’d like shoot from the hip with the Polaroid. It was real candid and I saved them. I knew I’d have a place for them eventually.’”

He shrugs.

‘“They were dirty pictures. I figured I’d wash them.’”

This year there is no holding back, and Beerbower is loving it.

‘“It forces you to confront your sexuality,’” he opines from his studio in the rear. ‘“It’s an opportunity to define within yourself what is porn and what is erotic art.’”

By the sofas in the lounge stands a driftwood sculpture by Tom Fidler called ‘“Her Map from Ditus,’” suggesting bulbous eyes and a gaping maw. Down near the base protrudes an interpretation of an erection.

There is a carved wooden pelvis with a sign saying ‘“tactile: please touch.’” There are vagina birdhouses, an erotic bed frame, naked dancers and ingeniously produced photographs by Andy Jay, printed on canvas as opposed to photo paper. One color shot, ‘“Dancer #3,’” features the horizontal torso of a stripper with her back arched and cast in honeyed hues.

There is entertainment, headlined by Patika Starr who dances in lingerie with another female performer, Micha Merrick, while each one rotates a lighted hula hoop with different parts of their bodies. They call themselves the Emberellas.

And there are lovers here, most notably Michael McQueen and April James who became engaged earlier in the day.

But the most intriguing piece of the night for several interested observers was called ‘“Post Modern Girl,’” the backside of a female torso clad in a black G-string and with her back broken by a deep crack through the middle, cast by Andrew Comstock. People are strangely drawn to it, caressing each buttock and snapping the underwear with their fingers.

They might be surprised to learn the piece was cast from a mold of YES! Weekly graphic designer Lisa Ellisor’s back and hindquarters. And she might be surprised to learn that her ass was going for $350.

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