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

Arts Review


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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
'The 2012 Drawing Annual'
Don't let Tiny Park Gallery go without experiencing this exhibit of depth and meaning

Wayne Alan Brenner, May 18, 2012

Arts Review
'Memento Mori'
The three artists showing here exhibit so much sentience, mystery, and grace

Wayne Alan Brenner, April 13, 2012

More by Wayne Alan Brenner
Is Austin’s Prohibition Creamery Too Sweet For Booze?
Prohibition Creamery: Too Sweet For Booze?
A whiskey mouth’s pleasurable experience suggests otherwise

Feb. 20, 2019

Hacking Whiskey at Treaty Oak Distillery
Hacking Whiskey at Treaty Oak Distillery
What’s a brief moment of Brooklyn in a Hill Country paradise?

Feb. 14, 2019


Pornsaints, Birdhouse Gallery, Kathryn Wilson, Danny Malboeuf, Steven Leyba, Andrew Tong, Jeff Faerber

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle