Slideshow at the bottom of this article may N be S for your W, think before you scroll to the bottom, just in case.
Walk into the back room of your local sex shop, and you might be surprised at what you find. Overstocked dildos, you ask? Porn for rent? “Arcades” that have nothing to do with PacMan or Mortal Combat? Not if you’re at the Good Vibrations on Polk Street, which features an art gallery behind the store’s front room.
That’s not to say what you’ll find in the gallery isn’t sexy as hell. Featured currently are the painting, drawings and sculptures of of three locals in a show called “Voluptuary: Expressions of Eros.” The work is a playful visual treat and, like this article, definitely NSFW.
I dressed up as an octopussy for Halloween…I rope bondaged an Octopus behind me and wore a cat suit. Also, I wore a vagina puppet, just to cover all my bases.”Upon entering, you’ll find the illustrations of Apaulo Hart on the wall to your left. Framed drawings of kinky, sexualized fairy tales carry captions like, “Little Miss Muffet’s Itsy Bitsy Spider,” while displaying said Muffet spoon feeding a submissive trapped in a spiderweb of bondage rope.
“I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil, and a perv probably just as long,” says Hart in his artists’ statement. Originally studying graphic design in Phoenix, Hart abandoned the field for the pursuit of illustration and moved to San Francisco in 2004. He preferred drawing kinky fairy tales for himself over designing ads for someone else. Referring to the common route of advertising work taken by many graphic designers, Hart says, “I don’t want to make people buy things they don’t need.”
“Let’s put it this way,” he continues, “I can be very good at doing what I’m told, but when it comes to my art, it has to be consensual.” Indeed, the plethora of dominatrix characters in Hart’s illustrations speaks to this dominant-submissive theme. A detailed rendering of my friend Sadie Lune, another artist in the show who does visual and performance art in San Francisco, shows the lady as a mermaid entangled with an octopus, framed by a full moon and her whip raised high.
“When I’m doing a piece on a dominatrix, she speaks to me and has a list of things she wants in the piece. I have a DS artist relationship,” explains Hart.
Lune’s work, found on the far wall of the gallery, continues the sea creature trope. An figure with an octopus head gives, er, head to a torso rendered in algal greens, hints of ocher and a background of sunset purple in the painting titled “Puget Sound.” Why sea creatures?
“Because I think they’re really hot,” explains Lune. “They’re so wet and slippery, but alive. The way they move is sexy, and the ocean turns me on.” Reason enough. The sensual love that Lune imagines between sea creatures is palpable in the smaller paintings of lesbian mermaid entanglement that one finds as her wall rounds the bend. Lune reminds me she is “mermaid identified.” As she explains, I start to notice not just the giant octopus earrings worn by the artist, but also the aquamarine fishnet stockings and body hugging, mermaid-esque dress she wears. And the octopus theme?
“I’m really into octopuses…They’re both sexy and delicious. And they’re intelligent! It’s all the things I like in a mate.” . So, it’s octopuses and not octopi? “Octopuses.” Sounds more like pussy, I suggest. “Yes! I dressed up as an octopussy for Halloween,” Lune enthuses. “I rope bondaged an Octopus behind me and wore a cat suit. Also, I wore a vagina puppet, just to cover all my bases.”
For a more terrestrial encounter, keep walking along the wall to the sculptures by Ana Bedolla. The pieces are crafted with dried plants and other objects into shapes that would make Georgia O’Keeffe blush. The pieces move from smaller to larger along the wall, and come to a stop next to a large wooden bookshelf full of test tubes, beakers and text books displaying graphs of embryonic and ecological development. The case blends ideas of fragile human beginnings with the life that starts in the earth.
“The idea of making these pods came to me after having a dream where humans couldn’t reproduce,” elaborates Bedolla in her artist’s statement, “so they literally were born deep inside the earth. The earth worked as the mother and womb of all humans which led them to appreciate and praise the earth like no other creature we know today.”
Bedolla thought the dream was especially pertinent because “we’re so cautious about the earth right now,” she tells me. But without the artist’s statement as explanation, the message of the work is very subtle. “I make this art more for me than for anyone else,” she allows. “It just makes me happy, how I’m feeling when it all comes together, more than how anyone reacts to it.”
Like Hart, Bedolla turned away from a commercial art program in 3D animation at the Art Institute of California after she took her first sculpture class. She transferred to the Academy of Arts and pursued sculpture, though no one else in her family of nine siblings had ever shown artistic leanings.
Good Vibrations hosts art shows about every two months. Lune was especially excited to display her work in this most auspicious of galleries, because “the Good Vibes mission has revolutionized the way people relate to [sex]. It encourages people who want to explore and experiment, and to masturbate.”
Originally from the east coast, Lune tells me about the not-so-woman-friendly sex stores she first encountered. “I grew up in Baltimore MD, and I was sexually adventurous, but not everybody is. [The sex stores there] are the kind of places where, if you’re a girl, every other person was like, ‘ohhhh,’ checking you out. I thought it was fun, but not everybody does.”
Check out the fun for FREE at the “Voluptuary: Expressions of Eros” show, running now through March 15th at Good Vibrations on 1620- Polk St. Also worth noting: if you make it to the opening of a Good Vibes show like I did last night, you get a discount card for 15% off! Also available for other Good Vibes events.