Sue Long at The Creole Gallery

By: Tim Lane | For the Lansing State Journal

Around the time that Okemos artist Sue Long began to seriously consider the idea of setting clay aside for another medium, she took an art class with Williamston sculptor Mark Chatterly who challenged her to seriously consider what she wanted to do or say as an artist. Taking the focus off of the medium, Chatterly encouraged Long to focus on herself.

"I knew that I wanted to have a show with an impact," she recalls.

The result is Long's new show, The Penis Project, opening Sunday at Creole Gallery.

"The show is not about sex," she says.

For Long, the idea for the show came together after watching "The Last Tango in Paris," a film in which the aspect of male nudity is glaringly absent while full frontal female nudity is openly depicted.

Long asked herself why women's bodies are often exploited in the media, and in film, in a way that men's seldom are, "even when it's appropriate," she said.

Long said she hopes her show helps open a dialogue about the exploitation of women.

The Penis Project is an attempt to create an opportunity for gallery viewers to experience what it's like to have the male genital area be the focal point of the culture, instead of the female, if only for a moment.

"It's not an attack, or mean-spirited," Long says.

Rather, it's an attempt to help everyone understand how it feels to be a woman living in a culture primarily inundated with feminine sexual imagery on a daily business.

It is also an attempt to help create a balance in a culture that exists in extremes.

"What's so sacred about the penis? Why do we keep it so hidden?" Long asked.

Long said she hopes by exposing an object - in this case, a part of the male anatomy - a kind of demystification can occur that allows for a balance in the presentation of male and female nudity within the culture.

Or that we can at least begin to openly talk about the differing ways in which men and women are depicted in the media.

"When you expose an object, it loses its power," Long says.

The Penis Project is a thought-provoking show which should prove to be the starting point for many thoughts and discussions within the Lansing area's art community.

Creole Gallery - a beautifully renovated building owned and operated by Robert Busby - began as a cigar company in the late 1800s.

Today, as a full-service art, performance and rental space, it continues to provide Old Town with a fine commodity.

The gallery's calendar includes an array of music, theater and art.

Copyright ©2005 Lansing State Journal