Is it just me or do wangs have a bum rap? Sure, they’re attached to every “that’s what she said” joke uttered, and it’s the last thing someone wants to see drawn his face after a late night with friends. When it comes to art nowadays, the male genitalia is the elusive unicorn of sex organs. Straight up, the male nude is a persnickety subject in our culture, so it’s only fitting that Wabi Sabi Warehouse’s upcoming show, “Man Uncovered,” seeks to explore the firm and flimsy notions surrounding the most mentionable of unmentionables: the penis.
Old friends and the show’s curators, Dan Brawley and Gina Gambony, don’t get their kicks from hanging dicks; they’re more interested in an honest conversation. The aim of “Man Uncovered” is to generate a dialogue about gender interpretation and creating equality in the marketplace.
“It’s such a big deal if you see a man’s penis in a movie,” Brawley says, “but women are getting naked all over the place; we have to do something to balance that out.”
As executive director of the Cucalorus Film Festival, Brawley is treading familiar ground. One of the more intriguing shows he presented at Wabi Sabi came in conjunction with the 2006 Gender of Art Festival—a series of events that examined how art and artists have interpreted gender over the years. Some paid particular attention to the dominance of the female form.
“Certainly, when you walk into most galleries or art shows, you don’t see many works dealing with the male form,” he says. “I think it will be interesting to see what people’s reactions will be.”
The show’s submissions are as varied in mediums as the locations they’re coming from—local oil and acrylic paintings, woodcuts and mixed media from Brazil, as well as photography from Ireland. Likewise, the content ranges from comical to austere.
“We wanted to have a whole spectrum,” Gambony explains. “I love silliness as much as I love seriousness—the really deep, authentic penetration into the meaning of [the work].”
She doesn’t crack a smile, but she knows what she’s done. Penis puns frequently pop-up in conversations, and this show is not about denying the fact that penises can be funny. This humor has been known to soften the hardest of critics, suggesting that catching an eye full of man-parts could be just the thing to render an old taboo impotent.
“I think people are more accepting of male nudity when it is used humorously,” Thomas Lewis, a studio art major at UNCW, says. “I find the male nude genre really dynamic; it can be funny and erotic at the same time.”
Lewis’ submissions are inspired by satirical street art and figure drawings. His imagery uses humor to pull the viewer in; once there, he asks them to ponder a deeper meaning. In an etching appropriately dubbed “The Tinkler,” a sinewy male figure sits atop two large, polished spheres. As the eye travels up, the subject’s arms become fused with the torso to form a human shaft that is inevitably crowned by the head of a penis. Fascinated by the idea of repetitive imagery and its effects on the subconscious, Lewis turned the etching into a sticker campaign (givemefunds.com) that’s spreading across the state.
“I just don’t like that there is a weird stigma around male nudity,” he says. “It seems to spawn from homophobia, and I don’t think it should be treated any differently than female nudity, which is far more accepted.”
In terms of publicizing, Brawley and Gambony toyed around with the idea of framing the show in a light that entices female viewers, but decided against it. They each believe the male form should be appreciated by everyone. Gambony is clear that the show is about art, the human experience and our perceptions.
“The pieces in show are not going to change the paradigm of how we see the male body,” she clarifies, “but I think that people who come to the exhibit will talk to other people about penises and get into unexpected conversations.”
Show-goers looking for an authentic human experience won’t be disappointed. Oh, yes! What kind of nude male art show would “Man Uncovered” be without an actual uncovered man? One-third of local artist Grey Pascal’s work is performance-based, but even he admits this particular project takes a lot of balls. “I wouldn’t be surprised if [the show] is like that car-accident syndrome,” Pascal says. “It hurts your eyes, but you don’t want to look away.”
Pascal’s performance essentially will represent stillness and the state of life between lives—after death and before being born again, when the body is in its purest form.“I don’t know what I believe from that,” he says, “but I think it’s really interesting: being in the cosmic womb, soul exposed, as naked as you can be. I want it to be symbolic of that.”
Pascal will bare all along with his stationary counterparts at the “Man Uncovered” opening reception (a.k.a. Dong Fest) at the Wabi Sabi Warehouse on Friday, July 25th. The show will hang until August 22nd.
Feat. over a dozen artists
Art opening: July 25th, 7-10 p.m.
Closing: August 22nd, 7-10 p.m.
Wabi Sabi Warehouse
19 N. 9th Street