Edgy exhibit in GR intended to be commentary on exploitation
Sunday, January 08, 2006
By Roger Green
Grand Rapids Press News Service
An edgy exhibit aimed at expanding local consciousness has arrived at the new Grand Rapids art gallery Studio71South.
The solo exhibit by Lansing ceramic artist Sue Long, "The Penis Project: Exposure and Exploitation of Men," features 100 portrayals of the male anatomy.
"My goal was to get men to feel, just for a moment, what women feel all the time," said Long, who sees art, especially sculpture, as an effective means of bringing about social change.
"Women are so exposed," she said, noting the absence of male flesh amid the surfeit of female flesh regularly seen in advertising and the media.
Long's sculptures, shown in November at Lansing's Creole Gallery, treat male appendages in different, always playful ways.
Some sculptures are diminutive, suggesting benign creatures from comic books or animated cartoons. Other sculptures are bigger and more provocative. Some are anthropomorphized, made to resemble complete or near-complete human bodies.
One series, "Penisauris," comprises dinosaurs whose long necks are suggestively curved.
"A lot of male-dominated thinking, like dinosaurs, really should be extinct," Long said.
"Art can get people to look at things in different ways because, through art, you approach ideas differently," said Long, who attended an artist reception Friday night at Studio71South, a downtown gallery that opened in September.
Co-owners and directors of Studio71South, Joshua and Jameson Dick, are enthusiastic about the exhibition, although they know it may not be received warmly by some West Michigan residents.
"We are willing to push the envelope," Jameson said. "Not a lot of local galleries would do this. ... We know our gallery is not going to get anywhere without doing something different."
Even Long felt some trepidation about exhibiting in reputedly conservative Grand Rapids. She said her initial thought was, "That's like entering the lion's den." But, she said about her treatment of the subject, "it's not at all sexual or pornographic. It's just a body part."
Reaction to Long's Lansing show was overwhelmingly positive, she said. Women were particularly open to it, she said, and "many men were also receptive and surprised by their reactions."
"Other men couldn't handle it at all and didn't stay long," she said.
Those attending Friday night's Grand Rapids opening were supportive of Long's mission.
"Kudos to Sue Long for taking the risk," Grand Rapids artist Aaron Van Wyk said. "We don't have enough risk-takers."
"I think it's great," said Mike Kondel, first-year student at Kendall College of Art and Design, "I think it stirs stuff up in Grand Rapids and throws things back at the conservative side of the city,"
"It's definitely a little edgier than you would see in Grand Rapids, but I think that's a good thing, showing how progressive Grand Rapids has become," said Rachel Lee, of Grand Rapids.
Pam Ouimette, ceramist from Clarkston, praised the exhibit on philosophical and technical grounds, saying it demystifies the male body, is "a nice social commentary for women" and shows better ceramic glazing work than she has seen "anywhere."
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