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'Pornsaints'

Interesting and provocative visuals fill this crossroads of sex, art, and religion

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., April 2, 2010

Arts Review

'Pornsaints'

Birdhouse Gallery, through April 17

1304 E. Cesar Chavez, www.birdhousegallery.com

What are – but also, in this case, what is – pornsaints?

"Pornsaints is an artistic approach to porn, a pornographic approach to art, a pornartistic approach to religion."

That's from the official website of the globe-spanning organization.

"We will call Pornsaint whoever attains sanctity through pornography. This doesn't mean that each and every porn actor is a pornsaint – for what we know, they're simply pornstars. Pornsaints might not even actually exist, but what interests us is that they might exist, and how they might exist." That is from the explanatory essay by Pornsaints founder Francesco D'Isa, the Italian artist with an abiding appreciation of such possibilities.

"Oh, we've got a lot of great artists for this," says Kathryn Wilson, local curator of the exhibition.

Backing evidence for that statement can be found in the rooms of Birdhouse's expansive gallery-in-a-house on East Cesar Chavez. Erotic evidence, of course: paintings, drawings, photography, videos – images in a diversity of media, with the common NSFW theme boldly foremost.

As you might (joyfully or with annoyance) expect, most of the depictions of saintly pornstars are depictions of women. Which is fine by this (admittedly biased) reviewer, boy howdy, especially when the artwork is as gorgeous as Danny Malboeuf's finely detailed and cyberpunky Firebird painting, Steven Leyba's jewel-encrusted psychedelia-on-canvas, Andrew Tong's classical oil portrait of Hollie Stevens, and so on; these and the other works offer a spectrum of gender-specific eye candy, from the come-hither to the cum-hither shades of pornography.

But that's not to say male figures are wholly unaccounted for. Jeff Faerber's series of acrylic-and-pencil works are well-rendered modern interpretations of the Japanese shunga tradition, thus simultaneously providing the otherwise absent phalluses (and, of course, giant phalluses, at that) and a scholarly harking-back to the ancient Eastern history of erotic representation in fine art.

There's a lot of potential for unpacking here, a lot of theses to be written and humanist/feminist/postmodern themes to be explored by cultural investigators with one agenda or another. But also, just a lot of interesting and provocative visuals for the nonacademic eyes to take in, here at the crossroads of sex and art and religion.

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