Winter Arts Preview: "Revealed"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The line between painting and pornography, pretty and prurient has been debated by artists and the public for centuries.

A Muse Gallery will add to this often controversial dialogue with a revamped edition of its erotic art show, which returns after an extended hiatus. Revealed runs Feb. 12-13, just in time to spice up your Valentine's Day date.

"Columbus is somewhat conservative," said gallery owner Caren Petersen on her decision to table the annual show several years ago. "People have pretty strong reactions against erotic art. If they're offended, we may have lost that customer forever."

Still, Petersen explained, sexuality is part of life. And art works best when presenting challenges in a unique way - not pretending they don't exist.

"One basis for the show is that all artists work with nudes at some point in their career," said Petersen. "A lot of artists you don't associate with erotic art do erotic art. They work with the figure because it's beautiful."

Roughly 40 pieces by the gallery's familiar stable of artists will explore themes of the body, desire and sexuality. You won't find another show like it this season.

"As I chose art for the show, it's always a tough call," she said. "Is it violent? Is it valid? Is it disgusting? Is it objectifying?"

Most likely, the show will elicit different answers from different viewers.

For example, Corsethead by illustrator Shelley Laffal is a lush oil of a woman being undressed in midair, suspended above a rather haunting backdrop. Noted woodworker Chad Awalt will offer a series of digital work exploring fantasy, and his Sprites depicts the cold embrace of two naked, otherworldly women bathed in white and bright pastel accents.

"Some of it questions what crosses the line of good taste," Petersen added. "You look at it artistically and technically, and they're good pieces - just a bit more difficult in terms of subject matter."