Seattle Erotic Art Festival 2011, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love #SEAF2011

Hand Embroidered Art by Scarlet Tentacle at the 2011 Seattle Erotic Art Festival

Like most of the things I sign up for or volunteer to do, I had no idea what to expect from the 2011 Seattle Erotic Art Festival: not only was the festival my first proper Art Festival/show, I’m not from Seattle and I had no idea what kind of a queer-kinky-BDSM-sex-positive community exists or how large it is, just that the esteemable Foundation for Sex Positive Culture, who puts on the festival, is based in Seattle, and that the Seattle branch of the Lusty Lady used to be located right off of the Pike Place Market somewhere.

So when I got off the bus on Saturday night two hours later than I’d meant to arrive, of course, and & walked to Fremont Studios, where SEAF2011 was being held, I was expecting everything and nothing.

Fremont Studios is located in, well, the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, which, as far as I could tell, is Seattle’s approximation of P.B. (an eclectic neighborhood that gets overrun by frat-brahs by night and one of the only places in San Diego where you are guaranteed to find a taxi anytime on a Friday or Saturday night), which seems a strange setting for an erotic art show. I’d gotten off the bus a few stops late, so I’d tramped through several blocks of bars and office buildings (including the building that houses Penny Arcade, whose office sign I took a picture of and now feel really weird about doing so). I’d walked for several blocks along empty back streets without seeing a single person and then all of a sudden I was there, amidst a throng of scantily clad festival go-ers. The adjacent parking lots were packed and there was a line around the building waiting to purchase tickets and be let in, because, as I found out later, the building was filled to capacity (and there were “thousands and thousands” of people at the festival).

I, of course, had neglected to look up any directions for what to do when I got there, so I got in line and waited behind a really entertaining group of ladies dressed to the nines in skimpy lingerie and angel wings – Seattle ladies are so much more weather-tough than I am. After eavesdropping on them for a while (Hey, self-described predatory, opportunistic lesbian in line in front of me for a while: please feel free to prey on me any time), I went to check on whether or not I was in the right line.

I wasn’t.
Of course.

So I got out of the surprisingly good-natured line of people prepared to wait over an hour in the rain to get into the festival and picked up my fancy special Artist Pass that I would have totally stuck on my forehead if I could have, and was ushered into the festival!

However the festival advertised, it seemed to have been done right — I arrived for the tail end of the nightly performances, right before the Red Light After-Party started, and every room was packed to capacity with guests dressed up like woah – lingerie, leather, latex, Edwardian gowns, tuxes, formalwear, nothing but tape, body paint, snorkeling gear (really), kilts, feathers, food (ok, those people were performers at La Figa, but still) — you name it, someone (someones!) was wearing it. Some folks were wandering around in the lobby and relaxing in the slick leather couches, but most were in the main part of the festival, looking at the art, watching the performers or waiting for cocktails (the specialty ones, one of which involved lots of sour stuff, was, no joke, the best cocktail I’ve ever had. Damn.).

(Via Robert Fisher)

The art was displayed through three large rooms at Fremont Studios; along with both the juried art and the invitational artists there were four stages which, while I was there, had the Dr. Sketchy’s stage, the sexy food display, an aerial silks performance and then a raucous marching band followed by a rather talented DJ, and a cage full of Lusty Ladies and later the same marching band, Titanium Sporkestra, providing music to dance to. There was also an area for the film festival which I didn’t get to. The lighting was both atmospheric – the stage areas & the bars were dusky, low and filled with fog machines and red and purple backlights, while the art was all perfectly illuminated, which is no mean feat. That contrast and effort of presentation necessary to craft a mood that is both intimate and carnival-esque, for me, was one of the most impressive aspects of the entire experience.

My first mission was to find my piece, so I wandered through the two large rooms with the juried art pieces. The art was all hung beautifully from large blocks suspended from the ceiling and each piece had two stickers, one with the artist’s statement and the other with the details pertinent to the artwork, like the name, date, price, etc. I’m not sure why, but I found it notably impressive that all of this information was printed on stickers, rather than just flimsy paper — I’m really fond of stickers, I guess.

In my search for my work, I believe I saw almost all of the juried pieces in the show, including my pieces in the festival store (which had all of my post cards nicely displayed and the second edition of my Dangerous Curves Erotic Coloring Books for Adults as well; I couldn’t find my embroidered vagina piece, which I’m hoping means that it was sold, but could also mean that I either didn’t search well enough or that it was too different from the initial description of the work I submitted).

I’m sure it goes without saying, but damn, there was a ton of amazing art at the show. Understandably, photography of the art was prohibited (which means that I was too chicken shit to take a photo of myself pointing at my piece and grinning like a fool, so I’ll have to illustrate one for funsies); it was also so crowded that it was at times difficult to see who had created what piece, so I don’t know who created many of the pieces I was so fond of, but here is a partial list that I’ll hopefully be able to further augment as more photos are posted in the SEAF Flickr group. There was so much great, beautiful, thought-provoking, fun work; I’m not remotely doing any of it justice here by my writing. Also, most if not all of these links take you to photos that folks have shared in the Seattle Erotic Art Festival 2011 group on Flickr — go check it out!

– Things I Have and Have Not Fucked People With – this was a series of two large photographic prints of two collections: things the artist had fucked people with (notable objects included a jar of vanilla, a cucumber and a large knife) and things the artist had not (yet) fucked people with (including a bowling ball, a cleaver, a foot and a foot in a toe shoe).
– The store had a section of an artist who worked with poured/moulded acrylic; my favorite pieces that I meant to buy but missed my chance to were these great miniature Winged Penises that had a really clever name that I now can’t remember (anybody who went to the festival know what I’m talking about and can point me in the right direction? These were so much fun).
– There was all sorts of beautiful black and white and color photography; there was in particular a very large black and white photo of two women embracing on a bed, only one of who was looking at the camera. There was something about the gaze of the woman that has stayed with me.
– Large vector drawing of a pin-up girl masturbating on her hands and knees.
– Plaster cats of women’s genitals masturbating with various objects
The Queeriodic Table by Jen Crothers and !Kona, which was one of the installation pieces.
– Possibly my favorite piece in the festival, The Naked Truth by Jim Wilkinson (whose flickr stream you can and should peruse for close-ups of the individual portraits and more of his work). The portraits themselves were technically stunning, with rich colors and simple, strong composition and a surprisingly legible execution of the messages each model chose. But what really got me (and made me cry) was the honesty and bravery that each subject shared with the photographer, and by extension, the entire festival. Not only did I identify strongly with several of the model’s statements, I felt like I was invited to deeply connect even with the folks whose experiences were not as familiar to me through the rapport the photographer created with his subjects through the lense. I’m not doing this piece justice with words; go look at the photos from the installation here.
– Hand crocheted finger puppets acting out various fetishes & kinky personae… I believe the artist’s work can be found on Etsy (this set of the Leather Daddy & Slaves is fantastic!).
This analogue sculpture of a topless woman made entirely from white legos, which was also wonderfully reminiscent of ASCII art as well as countless lego sets. EDIT: The artist for this piece is Michael Lynn; you can find a great photo of the piece here).
These metal sculptures marked “Please Touch”, which I definitely fondled as well.
– The performance/installation of La Figa – yum.
Rock Out, a sculpture by Charles Green which I am now kicking myself for not taking a photo with. (Also, cheers to Robert Fisher, who took this photo and many of the other photos in the SEAF Flickr group.)

I finally found my piece (but can YOU find my piece? It’s the tiny, completely un-seeable box on the floating wall, third from the lefthand side of the photo… Sweet!), which was actually in the last place I checked — not that I panicked when I couldn’t find it at first, of course. Me, panic? I would never do that. Right. Yes. — and it had a red dot! Without seeing any kind of confirmation one way or another, I assumed that the red dot meant that it had been sold. And better yet, I came upon it as several other folks were looking at it and talking about it and I do suppose it’s tacky or something, but I shamelessly eavesdropped, and they both liked it AND got it, and lingered a few moments to keep looking.

If I’d had a Full Satisfaction Festival Checklist Of Supreme Happiness, it would have looked like this:

Actually being admitted into the festival (proof that the whole process was not a hallucination or a giant mistake)
Seeing sexy people at festival
Seeing my art hanging in show
Hearing people talking about my piece
Hearing people actually liking my piece
Not having to fit a giant glass box into my suitcase on the way home (Bonus 500K+)
Someone buying my piece (Bonus 200K+)

So the rest of the night I was walking on air (plus that sour cocktail was divine) and doing a happy dance very few minutes, which was also appropriate for the after-festival.

In searching out my piece, which was facing the stage, I caught the tail end of the aerial silks performance on the large stage, and then got to watch the renegade marching band, Titanium Sporkestra step out into the crowd and get swept away. From the SEAF2011 official description:

Titanium Sporkestra is a renegade marching band from Seattle. Featuring and founded by members of infamous Seattle marching band Infernal Noise Brigade and legendary Seattle band TchKunG!, Titanium Sporkestra delivers a bombastic blend of heavy world drumming as well as traditional drum line music, tweaked just a little bit and turned up to 11.

Amazing, no? From my corner I could watch them moving into another room by tracking the drummer with the half-naked girl perched on his shoulders. Note: if you want to get people to clap along with your music, get a topless lady ot do the clapping… Crowds catch on fast when there is a naked lady demonstrating what to do.

Sadly I didn’t make it back to the festival on Sunday — or rather, I arrived in time to pick up my unsold merchandise, but not in time to see any more goings on like I’d planned — though I did get to meet the man who’d bought my piece, in a somewhat hilarious cute-meet. I’d convinced myself that the red dot on my piece meant something other than sold, so I was lined up to take it back home. The folks who’d purchased artworks were lined up in another line and both artists and collectors were being led, one by one, to a registration desk, where the volunteers were checking IDs and ferrying the sold and unsold art to their appropriate owners. I waited in line and gave them my information and then heard a lady exclaim “Oh no! Did we double-sell ‘the Private Collection’?”

So, red with embarrassment for double-guessing the meaning of the red sticker, I told the kind folks that no, I’m not a collector but the artist, and I wasn’t sure if the piece had been sold or not. The volunteers laughed and told me that not only did I get a cheque instead of the piece, which was better, but that only 20% of the pieces in the show had sold, and that the man who’d bought the piece was a few feet away, picking up his purchases and I should go thank him. Which I did, awkwardly — I called him a patron of the arts, which makes me want to kick myself.

And then it was time to bus home and pack, thankfully only postcards and coloring books instead of a giant glass box filled with pins and embroidered vaginas.

So that was my experience with the 9th Annual Seattle Erotic Art Festival. I’m kind of really excited to make new pieces for the 2012 festival and visit Seattle again.


4 thoughts on “Seattle Erotic Art Festival 2011, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love #SEAF2011

  1. Brava!

    Congratulations for your happy success, with bonus points. Next year, if I’m still local, I’ll have no excuse for missing it.

  2. Glad you liked my Lego piece!
    And I agree – the Naked Truth piece was outstanding and for me easily the most moving piece of the festival.

  3. Pingback: Scarlet Tentacle in Meatspace: July, 2011 | Scarlet Tentacle – Audacious Handmade

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