Although Sex Week at Yale came to an official end Saturday night, the spirit of Valentine’s Day lingered for a crowd that gathered in the York Square Cinema Gallery late Sunday afternoon for some visual titillation.
The exhibition “Erotic Valentines” featured a broad array of erotic artwork by artists Amy Blue, Laurel Griffy Caprio and Byuck Song Lee.
Only Caprio was able to be present for yesterday’s artists’ reception.
Gallery curator Johnes Ruta said although the large showing at the Gallery demonstrated the growing appeal of erotic artwork in American culture, such exhibitions still raise eyebrows.
“We’re in a period of Puritanical mentality in America,” he said. “Sadly, [erotic art] is — a commentary on the lack of acceptance of [admiration of human form], based on people’s reactions [to it].”
Amy Blue’s rise to prominence in the genre of erotic art exemplifies its persistent taboo nature, Ruta said. The artist’s initial occupation as a renowned international jewelry designer forced her to begin painting under a pseudonym to avoid alienating her clientele, Ruta explained.
In fact, her paintings are considered to be so provocative that Ruta featured only her more “tame” pieces, since they were being displayed in a public locale and not an official art gallery.
But Claudine Burns-Smith, a longtime admirer of Blue’s work, expressed her appreciation more for the emotional content of her paintings rather than their illicit nature. She said Blue’s broad, colorful strokes, which reveal a lack of attention to anatomy, convey the artist’s intentions more directly.
“[Her artwork] comes more from the inside, [but there’s] also a degree of fantasy she includes. There are some myth-like elements, some Gothic elements,” she said, referring to Blue’s painting “Gothic Interior.”
While Blue is considered to be a more established erotic artist, Ruta described 25-year-old Lee as an “emerging” artist. Lee — who, like Blue, works primarily with oil — is a native of Seoul, Korea and is currently a graduate student at the Art Institute of Boston.
One of Lee’s paintings, a portrait of a nude woman entitled “Being Desired,” evoked an enthusiastic response from many viewers.
Cliff Cronan said the painting’s title was an apt one. He said its attention to light and shadow resulted in, quite simply, a “desirous” painting.
Lee’s mastery of lighting technique was noted by Anthony Riccio as well, who said he was particularly drawn to Lee’s painting “Green No.14.”
“What really strikes you [about the painting] is the dappled lighting,” Riccio said. “It’s a study of feeling, mood, light.”
Another painting that Riccio said captured his attention was Caprio’s work “Red Pumps,” which portrays a woman from behind in squat position — who happens to be donning a pair of red pumps.
Riccio commended the painting for its expressiveness and inventiveness.
“It’s not just erotic or sensual in nature, but abstract,” he said.
Caprio — whose paintings are in watercolor — emphasized her desire to create artwork that conveys more than just eroticism. She said she wants her paintings to “say something” to women in particular.
“Women should be able to be nude [and to] look at a nude body without feeling ashamed,” she said. “[I want] to convey confidence and pride [in my paintings].”
Caprio said her message might be best expressed in her painting “No Pockets,” which depicts a woman inserting her hands into her back pockets — except she’s not wearing any pants.
“That painting is my signature piece,” Caprio said. “[It’s] my attitude.”
One viewer, who would give his name only as Dr. Phil, said he preferred Caprio’s use of watercolors to the oils employed by Blue and Lee.
“The watercolors are bright and vivid, and give [Caprio’s paintings] a lot of personality,” he said.
But Dr. Phil said all of the paintings were “very good,” and voice a common message:
“Nudity is beautiful.”
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