Art au naturel

HAWC-Bentzen

During the evening of Oct. 3, I visited Hot Art Wet City on Main Street to peruse the gallery’s’ most recent exhibit: Boobies & Weiners: An Immature Look at the Nude, which is on until Oct. 26.

From the get go, it was obvious that the presentation space would include more than just still images, photographs, drawings, paintings and sculptures of naked body parts. Opening night is usually not the ideal time to take in an art show. In fact, the gallery was so packed with wriggling bodies of viewers trying desperately not to spill their drinks that a return trip would be in order. Luckily, HAWC founder and owner Chris Bentzen was happy to receive me the following day.

“Hot Art Wet City is meant to be accessible and fun for both viewers and emerging talent,” says Bentzen. “We rotate our exhibits to feature both curated artist selections and shows that propose a theme to creators who are invited to submit proposals.”

Boobies & Weiners falls into both of these categories. With over 80 artists displaying pieces in both showrooms, calling the exhibit an orgy for the eyes would be an understatement.

With this in mind, it is only natural that each artist take a unique position with regard to the naked human form. For some, like Vince Hemingson, photography is the medium of choice. In his work, La Lucha Libre, a tag team of oiled and buxom beauties display their signature moves in a large print mounted on aluminum. Only their faces are covered by the characteristic masks of the mexican wrestling tradition.

Still others, like ARGH!, prefer a sculptural approach. Here two skeletons are strategically positioned in a corner, one sitting with protruding golf ball eyes, and a second, kneeling and wearing a wig on her head, which is hunched over in the first skeleton’s lap. It’s the very embodiment of the boner for everyone to see.

Apart from many other tongue-in-cheek representations of our favourite genitalia, the gallery space also plays host to Art or Bust, which is curated by Jenn Brisson. This exhibit-within-an-exhibit features breast casts of women that have known someone with, or who have themselves been affected by, breast cancer. These busts will be auctioned off in order to raise money for the cause.

It is evident that HAWC is doing much more than simply elevating low brow art to a popular gallery status: it is using Bentzen’s tactics of cutting edge event development to create a social environment which fosters community values and a better understanding of underground, outsider and art brut sensibilities. Quite a satisfying change from your average one-night-stand.

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