Gallery 1010 held the opening reception of the exhibition "Mythical Genitalia" as a part of First Friday, Aug. 2 from 6 to 9 p.m.
The exhibition featured 28 different media, including paintings, kinetics, photographs and videos. Three third-year graduate students in the art program curated the event: Justin Clay in transmedia design, April Bachtel in painting and drawing and Victoria Buck in ceramics.
"I think it's been a surprising mix of responses," Buck said during the opening reception. "Some people were expecting more anatomical representations, like literal, and so it's been a really nice way to see a metaphorical way of approaching physicality and humanness."
The idea of the show was first conceived when the three friends were discussing mating habits and genitals of different animals and creatures, Clay told The Daily Beacon a few weeks prior to the show. The exhibition's website (www.mythicalgenitalia.com) states that the purpose of the show is "first and foremost to create an open dialogue about sexuality in a state where sex is often spoken about in whispers."
"Our quest is to provoke in the viewer a sense of awe at both our own reproductive organs and those of other creatures, questioning the difference between what is mythical and what is real," the website states. "Mythical Genitalia is a chance for artists to create their own myths, toy with preexisting myths, and play with the very line between fact and fiction."
Gallery 1010, although small, held all 28 pieces of the exhibition as well as a cooler filled with chilled juice drinks and hot popcorn and candy for visitors.
Curious attendees at the opening reception could also help themselves to free artwork created by the three curators.
Incoming junior Megan Gerlach participated in First Friday with her mother and said she appreciated how "Mythical Genitalia" stood out as different among the other galleries.
"I think it's entertaining probably because my mother is here and she's looking at things and not getting it, I think that's why I'm having such a good time," Gerlach said. "She's like 'what is that' and I'm like 'oh god, mom,' so I think it's entertaining and it's a different perspective on art that can be presented during First Friday. I haven't
seen genitalia at First Friday before so it's different and I like it."
Buck said the set up for the show required dilligent work from the trio.
"It took two solid days of talking to each other and seeing what pieces looked good next to each other, how things fit because we do have a lot of work in there," Buck said. "A lot of it had to do with relationships through either color or texture or sound or how things feel, or the approach that the artist had to the work.
"We tried to make it either contrasting or complimentary. We tried to make it more of a balance, a pleasing room."
The pieces in the exhibition ranged in size and form, and were accepted locally and nationally. The curators, via their website, encouraged artists to "step out of their comfort zones through the lens of humor and make work about all lifestyles, reproductive biology, procreation, and any mythical creation that one's imagination can conjure."
"It's really refreshing to see the different materials that have been used and the different loads of approach to how people have thought about mythical genitalia," Buck said. "It's good to see the different flavors of what people are making across the nation and their interpretations and their viewpoints and seeing how, also, as an artists, to see
how other people approach material. I hope that people get new ideas, see new aesthetics."
Clay said that he and the two other curators used humor as a way to connect with people who may not be openly comfortable to discuss subjects like the genitals of mythical creatures.
"I think what also makes this show different is that it is about sex, gender and genitals ... straight up parts!" Bachtel said in an email interview prior to the exhibition. "Hopefully, the show will challenge the way (visitors) think and open them up to something new. At the very least I hope for laughter because we sure have been laughing a lot."
Gerlach, who had not heard of "Mythical Genitalia" before but walked in when she saw the sign on the Gallery door, said she enjoyed how the exhibition's opening reception was on First Friday.
"You get to see different artwork from different age groups, you can see different types of people to come see it, and there are always free snacks, which is enjoyable because everyone likes free snacks," Gerlach said. "That brings us together to enjoy the art."
"Mythical Genitalia" is held at Gallery 1010 and will be on display until Aug. 10. Gallery 1010 is open Thursday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. and is located at 113 S. Gay St. in Downtown Knoxville.
For more information on "Mythical Genitalia" visit www.mythicalgenitalia.com.