On our walk to 66 Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn, it became increasingly clear that every restaurant in the city was packed to capacity for Valentine’s Day, even the teeny tiny holes in the wall, with tender hearted people eager to please their significant other. But after finally walking up the steps to Tender Trap, the venue for the Dirty Art Show, an erotic exhibit, it also became increasingly clear that this was not going to be a “normal” Valentine’s Day.
Tables of every sex toy you could possibly imagine lined the entryway — from butt plugs to handcuffs — while beside them rails of beautiful handmade lingerie in every color, pattern, fabric, and texture hung on plush velvet hangers, just waiting to be taken home. As we walked towards the back of the bar, the wood paneling opened up to reveal a larger space, where around 50 pieces of art hung from the walls, each sexually charged to fit the underlying theme of the exhibition. Dicks embroidered onto paper, oil paintings of women crawling across beds, and even a black and white print of breasts that doubles as a Rorschach test.
In the room adjacent, an artist by the name of Uncle Reezy was selling prints of her sexually charged, incredibly colorful illustrations. “My art is pretty sexual, just because it kinda helped me deal with some shit that I was going through,” she explains. “I love pop art and anything that just pops, because I feel like you need to make sexuality so positive and beautiful because it gets shamed so much. So I try to make it appealing and get people comfortable with it.”
As the night went on, more and more people crowded into the tiny back room, some with partners, others without, each one pointing at the wall to their favorite piece of art. “I like this one,” remarked one woman, while her friend pointed to the hand beaded mask in the corner, a suggestive mouth opening the mask’s only orifice. The speakers crackled as a short man with brown hair clambered his way to the stage, announcing a brief film. Faces of young people were projected on the back wall, each one detailing what love meant to them, one girl even commenting that to her, love was eating whatever the fuck she wanted — and to be honest, we couldn’t agree more.
The third annual Dirty Art Show explored the intimacy of human nature while bringing sex and sexuality to the forefront of an otherwise cliche holiday that concerns itself more with commercialized hearts and flowers than the relationships it’s derived from. Much like the fleeting relationships that pepper the NYC dating scene, the exhibit might have only been for one night, but the dialogue it started is an ongoing reminder of the real sentiments behind Valentine’s Day.