State of Arousal

An art exhibition tries to make St. Louisans act grown-up about sex

To the question "Have you been aroused?" the answer from most of those at the closing party was "No" or "Maybe twice." This doesn't mean there wasn't some interesting art on the walls or on the floor. A sound-and-video installation by Cary Horton and Jason Hoeing, on view behind black curtains, featured hushed whispers and peripheral images of stairwells and open doorways and people doing things that might be shocking but might not; it contained the sensual tease of film noir. Donald Rasch's "Wheel of Porn" was both funny and artfully constructed -- turn that wheel and land on an expressionistically painted body part, with Rasch in the background goading people on like a carnival barker: "Go ahead, take a spin." The oil portraits of cocks were colorfully rendered by the pseudonymous Thomas Rangdale. Silvey and fellow Arousalcoordinator Bob Rocca constructed three windows in separate frames containing ghostly images of a female nude and a drawing of a penis from a turn-of-the-century medical journal, inviting the viewers to walk between the frames and create their own visual overlays.

Lots of pieces were little more than big yawns, though. Those lips and that banana pressed together made for a visual cliché. A performance poet going on about the journey of a sperm hadn't the wit or inventiveness of an old Woody Allen routine.

Arousalbecame a place to people-watch, for that was the most arousing display in evidence. Silvey says part of the point of the show was to create a space for people and ideas to commingle safely. So they did, less extravagantly on closing night. Attractive people, too, which might make for a better campaign for the city than "We Got It Good" -- maybe "We Ain't Half-Bad-Lookin', Either."

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