Filth on the Canvas

dirty show 16 detroit

The 16th annual Dirty Show wrapped up in Detroit this week, closing out its week-long celebration of all things explicitly sexual, intensely erotic, and outright carnal. After being graced by the endlessly entertaining and enlightening John Waters and seeing performances from all kinds of (performance) troupes and (military-fetishizing) troops, Dirty Show 16’s doors closed for another year. The painters, sculptors, photographers, and printmakers exhibiting in the Dirty halls this year included notable International guests as well as national and local artists. Here we present a small selection of highlights from Dirty Show 16 and hopefully bring to your attention, dear reader, some new artists worth keeping an eye on.

Renowned horror filmmaker Clive Barker contributed this painting entitled The Wolf Behind the Flame that, although tucked away in a corner and easily missed, stopped everyone who passed it dead in their tracks. (Although perhaps Barker’s name was the reason.)
Clive Barker

Cult favorite comic scribe Grant Morrison has said of Gail Potocki that she “conducts seances on canvas.” Bringing to Dirty Show 16 a piece directly recalling Adolf Ulrik Wertmuller’s masterpiece Leda and the Swan, Morrison’s interpretation is more than understandable.
Gail Potocki

Billy Norrby kept his model mostly clothed and instead exposed her not to our eyes but to the swirling energies of the cosmos. Sky Cathedral elevates transcendental self-love to the level of universal, even cosmic love.
Billy Norrby

Portrait of the Artist Entering her Blue Period by Scott G. Brooks placed his model before a glory hole in turn surrounded by messages scrawled into the wall, messages possibly addressing the kneeling, sticky-handed woman, her hair bundled into a pair of classical buns and adorned with (you guessed it) pearls.
Scott G. Brooks

By far the most whimsical piece we spotted on the exhibition walls (or, more accurately, in a cabinet) was Jason Levesque’s gastropod mollusk whose wanderings have left a trail of “grool” in its wake. Surely, that tasty-looking critter is the ultimate overqualified paperweight for the desk of yours truly.
Jason Levesque

John Waters Blossoms Amongst Filth

dirty show 16 detroit

Detroit’s annual Dirty Show, a celebration of erotic art in all its myriad forms, welcomed the crown prince of deviancy and master of bad taste, Mr. John Waters, to the Motor City to enlighten attendees on the finer points of, well, being dirty. Not that the audience really needed much help. Dommes, daddies, and heavily-inked degenerates of all kinds swanned about the Russell Industrial Center’s exhibition hall in various revealing or suggestive outfits, really only settling down for Waters’ performance, a revised version of This Filthy World the filmmaker and raconteur claimed was “dirtier, filthier than before.”

Waters regaled the audience with anecdotes of his early filmmaking years, from how he got Divine to eat dog shit on camera to which drugs resulted in the smoothest productions, and aside from a few left wandering the exhibition, had everyone listening with rapt attention. He also discussed my very stock in trade, pornography, calling out the hetero porn industry for rendering even the most filthy vulgarities quite bland. (Case in point: anal prolapses are called “blossoms” in gay porn, “rosebuds” in straight.)

Looking around Dirty Show 16, it seemed Waters was onto something. The more outlandish and adventurous works hanging on the exhibition hall walls were not predominantly heterosexual. Where the female form was used (from a clearly male view point) it was as an object of distant appreciation, an almost abstracted lust that no longer produced a physical reaction in the viewer, just a gentle appreciation of the form before them. Following Waters’ line of thinking, it’s not greater video definition, hotter or younger women, or more “intense” schtupping that straight porn needs, but that obscure element of genuine filth that could reinvigorate what many regard as a floundering industry and (yes) art form. Whether this filthiness can be found in the throng of recent step-incest movies or Kink & Co’s consistently taboo-smashing aggro-fetishism remains to be seen. If you ask me, though, it’s far more likely to spring from a figure like Dana Vespoli (arguably the most sour-looking woman in porn yet a fan- and critic-favorite for her truly adventurous performing career and boldly individual and highly inventive work as a director). With female performers launching themselves as directors after Belladonna, Bobbi Starr, and Ms. Vespoli paved the way, and with the 2015 AVN Award for Best Director going to a woman, Mason, it seems women are only gaining more strength and, we can only hope, bring a decidedly filthy and blazingly original element back to porn.

And, no, unfortunately we can’t hold out hope for Mr. Waters’ foray into mainstream hetero hardcore, which he considers about as sexy as open heart surgery. And besides, the man William Burroughs called The Pope of Trash is trying to get the financing together for a long-gestating family-oriented film.

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Photos by John Froelich, Detroit Free Press

World’s Dirtiest Artists Hit Detroit

Dirty Show 16 Detroit

Talk about new centers of artistic creativity and thriving entrepreneurship these days has moved past the overcrowded and overpriced mainstays like New York and San Francisco and is now focused on less obvious hotbeds of young urban growth. One such city, and arguably the one struggling to defeat a horrible reputation, is Detroit, Michigan. Once the heart of America’s immense industrial might, the Motor City has, as everyone has heard again and again and again, fallen on hard times. And, while craft breweries, hipster tattoo parlors, “artisanal tea” growers, and intellectual-copyright-infringing art fairs now litter Detroit in a tribute to the bland commodification of former vices and artistic outlets, there is someone working hard to promote debauchery, degeneracy, and complete and utter filth. His name is Jerry Vile and he’s the creator of the annual Dirty Show.

Launching this weekend and running until February 21st, The Dirty Show is Detroit’s annual exhibition of erotic art and performance. Now one of the largest exhibitions of its kind in the world, The Dirty Show was created by Vile in 2000 as a small art showing and in 2005 opened its Call to Artists to anyone who dared submit work. The resulting thousands of submissions saw more than 250 artists from 20 countries exhibit work over four days. For this year’s 16th annual celebration of the filth and the furry see such artistic luminaries as Ron English, the late H.R. Giger, Clive Barker, and Saturno Butto along with prominent national and local talents like Glenn Barr, John John Jesse, Pamela Wilson, and Jason Levesque. And, to top it all off, Vile and Exhibition Director Genevive Zacconi have nabbed another sterling lineup of erotic performers of all kinds. Hell, they even got exhibiting artist, filmmaker, and hitchhiking enthusiast John Waters to agree to deliver an updated “Filthier and Dirtier” rendition of his acclaimed one-man show This Filthy World.

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Sure, you’re not in Detroit (and, if you’re like most Americans, don’t plan to be) and can’t partake in all the ribald revelry of the Dirty Show 16, so why should you care? Well, dear reader, in a never-ending quest for further erotic inquiry, I am writing this blog from an unnamed airport terminal in the continental US, waiting to board a flight to Detroit and find out for myself the real dirt on The Dirty Show – and naturally I’ll be reporting back here with highlights, lowlights, and tantalizing tidbits galore. What, you think I’d let my close, personal friends and fellow porn enthusiasts miss out on all the fun?