It's been a long three years since the coital controversies of the Arousal group art show made St. Louisans' eyes pop at nude partygoers, public masturbators and "the sushi lady." Now a different group of arts patrons will mount (sorry, puns are going to happen in this one, folks) Eros Rising, another art show with a sexual theme, at Don Erickson's Art Coop space next to the City Museum.
Those who weren't there on the fateful night of Arousal missed out on some unusual shenanigans brought on by a combination of nudity and art-reception boxed wine at the Monkey Building. The nude models being photographed wandered from their perches to mingle with the guests, à la the Playboy mansion. One very liberated male art-school model and his female counterpart spontaneously diddled themselves to climax for an applauding crowd, and some guests, naturally enough, began to eat the sushi arranged across the bod of a nude gal (those California rolls weren't for snacking, it turned out). Oh, and then there was the streaking along Washington Avenue.
For one night, our Midwestern town of lawn Madonnae and church suppers became a genital-jiggling Las Vegas of sin, all in the name of art, and now it's happening again -- sort of.
Eros Rising is not Arousal redux, we've been told. Yes, there will be "erotic performance art, sensual music and figure models to draw," writes Erickson, but we shouldn't expect Brooklyn, Illinois-style live porn. We should expect 40 artists who've each submitted three works for the show, including photographs, paintings and sculpture by the likes of Russ Rosener, Susan Fitzsimmons, Lisa Marie Thalhammer and Melissa Winneshiek. We'll see body painting, heavily tattooed models circulating amidst the crowd and even a "confession booth" manned by a UM-St. Louis instructor offering "absolution" for a penance of 50 cents to a dollar.
The focus of Eros, though, is the work of full-time erotic photographer Michael Draga. Draga has photographed so many of the young ladies of St. Louis that if you run with any sort of bohemian crowd, there's a decent chance he's used one of your female friends as a model.
More than 500 local women have disrobed in Draga's home studio, he estimates, to be captured in arty black-and-white prints, and about 30 of these models are expected to attend Eros to see themselves made immortal in an exhibit of Draga's photos.
So how does the photographer find his subjects? "I find the women all over the place," he says. "Once I saw this woman walking around a library with a sundress and a hat on. I was following her around, trying to give her my card. I showed her some of my work, and she agreed. I see an interesting person someplace, I give them my card and if I get one out of ten responses I'm lucky."
At Eros Draga will also photograph nude volunteers, including any audience members who're willing to strip and stand behind a partition with "knotholes" for public viewing of the shoot.