'Mythical Genitalia' is the title of an upcoming, 28-piece art show to be exhibited at Gallery 1010 as part of August's First Friday.

The show is being curated and prepared by three third year MFA candidates in the art program, including Victoria Buck in ceramics, April Bachtel in painting and drawing and Justin Clay in transmedia design. The three friends first came up with the idea for the show almost a year ago.

"There was a bunch of us sitting around and talking, and there was probably some drinking involved, and it came up and we were like yes, let's make very serious show about the genitalia of mythical creatures," Clay said.

Despite early concerns that the theme would not be serious enough, the three friends realized that "Mythical Genitalia" has a little more meaning than just giggles.

As the project gained momentum, the discussion mainly revolved around mating habits of animals and the genitalia of other creatures. On the show's website (mythicalgenitalia.com), the objective of the exhibition is stated 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 show is about being honest and open about who you are and what you like no matter how weird or strange it may be," Bachtel said, who is out of town and agreed to an email interview. "We always have to grapple with what we think about other people or what they think about us and this show sets up an interesting space where you walk in and you have to confront these strange things in front of you ...

"Hopefully the show will provoke viewers to examine myths that exist today in their own lives and get them to think in a new way. If that happens I think we have succeeded."

Last semester's Sex Week controversy that garnered national media attention when UT administration pulled funding for the sex-education event gave Clay and his friends more reason to move forward with the show. He said the group hopes the unusual artwork will encourage people to be more open to people who have different sexual persuasions and identities.

"This is on people's minds right now ... on a very small scale we can do something," he said, mentioning that all three curators have friends in the LGBTQ community.

Almost 50 pieces were submitted for consideration, and the three graduate students selected 28 pieces from the photographs, paintings, drawings, sculptures, videos and mixed-media pieces. Submissions were accepted from everywhere, and while the deadline for submissions was last Monday, local artists who can physically bring their pieces to campus can still be considered for the show.

Currently out of the country in Canada, Bachtel said that the decision-making process of what to include in the show consisted of "a grueling three hour Google chat session."

"I think really we looked at the images many, many times over a few days," she said, "so that when we chatted, we pretty much knew what pieces would work well together and create a dialogue throughout the gallery."

Having moved from Alabama to Knoxville for graduate school, Clay said he noticed the "open- minded community" that he hadn't experienced before. Because the topic of genitals and sex is quite controversial and not often openly spoken about, the three took a humorous approach to apply to the exhibition.

"The idea is to continue to get artist to submit works and take the show to other places, so that's why we built the website and we're trying to make a community out of it so that it's not just one show and it's over, it's that we'll continue to evolve and get more, and continue to go to other places," Clay said.

With those plans in mind, Clay said that he is not expecting to change the world, but is hoping to get people's attention.

"I think that [art] can make a difference within reason and I also think that some people respond to this stuff, and maybe it's a back door approach as opposed to us standing out in the middle of campus and handing out flyers and screaming at people," Clay said when describing what he hopes the show will achieve.

The show's opening reception will be participating in Knoxville's First Friday event on Aug. 2. There will be a jury judging the work for prizes that Clay said will be pieces the three graduate students will make themselves.

"I think what also makes this show different is that it is about sex, gender and genitals ... straight up parts!" Bachtel said. "I think for some viewers this may be a little shocking, but our intention isn't to shock at all ... Our intention is to actually provide a safe place for dialogue, discussion, sharing and learning."

"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."

Gallery 1010 is located at 113 S. Gay St. in downtown Knoxville. The opening reception for 'Mythical Genitalia' will be on Aug. 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. as part of First Friday Knoxville and will continue on display until Aug. 10.

For more information on 'Mythical Genitalia,' visit www.mythicalgenitalia.com.