For the average romantic, red roses and chocolates and a fancy restaurant may suffice for setting the Valentine’s Day mood. But where, you must be asking, can the freaky-deakies among us get that V-Day mojo working? The answer comes courtesy of downtown Phoenix’s Alwun House.
The answer comes courtesy of downtown Phoenix’s Alwun House, the converted two-story historical house turned exhibit and performing art space — Arizona’s first contemporary arts haven — where each February for the past 34 years, the place has been turned over to some of the naughtiest, libido-spanking artwork the Valley will witness all year. It’s dubbed the Exotic Art Show.
It almost goes without saying: “It’s mature, it’s for adults,” Alwun’s founding artistic director, Kim Moody, 60, advises.
Some 69 artists — ahem — have contributed 150 works to the saucy show, including an array of paintings and sculptures that pay playful tribute to the Sapphic and the phallic, the sacred and the profane, the utterly unprintable and utterly flaming.
(The latter, mind you, would be in the form of a 7-foot-long, fire-spewing steel dragon posed on the Alwun House grounds.)
“It’s exotic in that it’s beyond the ordinary,” Moody says of the spirit behind the collection. “There’s plenty of erotic, but it’s always done with that aesthetic flavor. I wouldn’t use the word pornography.”
Likewise, the audience — some 600 people every year from as far away as Lake Havasu, San Diego and Las Vegas — tends to be anything but predictable, Moody says:
“We get doctors in suits, professional people in tuxes — it’s like, 'Jesus, why is he wearing that?’ — down to pretty burlesque. People really enjoy it.”
If anything, then, the vibe suggests Burning Man festival buffs looking for a little amoré in the off-season.
Exotic, not erotic
Credit for creating the Exotic Art Show, Alwun’s largest fundraiser, goes to Rudy Turk: Now 80, the Arizona State University Art Museum’s curator emeritus came up with the idea while serving on the Alwun’s board of directors.
Though his original intentions have been blurred by the passing decades.
“He’s the guy that decided the Alwun House could use a little excitement,” Moody says. “He was the one who came up with the idea of calling it 'exotic’ and not 'erotic.’ He said, 'Everyone’s going to automatically read “erotic,’ ” and by God, he was right.”
Turk now says that’s wrong; he merely suggested an exhibit of abstract expressionism — all the rage back in the ’70s, he says — and eroticism just naturally crept its way in.
“I did not expect it,” Turk says. “But when it arrived I wasn’t surprised.”
Friday sneak peek
This year’s exhibit opens Friday evening, Feb. 9, with a sneak preview and party, including burlesque and belly dancing performers, drag queens in full glam, live body painting and — who’s not intrigued? — something called “backpack bondage.”
Above the bar, dancers will pose (fully clothed) in positions from the “Kama Sutra.”
If that all doesn’t exactly scream Valentine’s Day, Moody swears he sees plenty of attendees getting swept into the holiday spirit, couples hugging and smooching among the saucy art.
“It speaks to the heart of Valentine’s Day,” he says with a straight face. “It’s very romantic.”
>> “Exotic Art Show” opens Tuesday, Feb. 13, and runs noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, closing March 16, at Alwun House, 1204 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix. $4. (602) 253-7887 or alwunhouse.org. Note: Special sneak-peek gala 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. 21 and over.