featured gallery for October 2010

OSC: Obsessive Sex Collecting

The compulsion to collect can be related to a wide array of objects such as coins, marbles, figurines, newspapers and pieces of paper. Hoarding, the more extreme end of the collecting spectrum, has even become the focus of popular reality television shows, documenting how this compulsion can take over a person's life. At times this drive to collect can be directly tied to someone's sexuality and sexual identity.

While some cultural institutions briefly touch upon the theme of sex, the outright and unwavering inclusion of the topic is rare. By avoiding sex, a museum or gallery space can become a clinical and sanitized repository for a collection of works, but in this selection, the idea of the "collection" is charged through its association with sex. Overtly sexual objects, erotic art pieces, a lover's hair or even sexual experiences can all be collected. Even the amassing of tattoos, both traditional and erotic, can be considered a process of collecting, as well as an analogous sexual experience, with someone giving and another receiving the art form. In the recently released biography Secret Historian by Justin Spring, the life of Samuel Steward, a professor turned tattoo artist and gay pulp fiction author under the pseudonym of Phil Andros, is an extraordinary example of a sexual collector, who began his collecting in an era where these explicitly homosexual items could have easily had him arrested. Coaxed and supported by Alfred Kinsey, Steward kept detailed records of all of his sexual encounters. Graphic Polaroid photos of sex parties, and in some cases, clippings of his partner's pubic hair, were included in his "Stud File," a typed card catalogue documenting every partner and sex act he participated from 1924 to 1974. Passing away in 1993 at the age of 84, Steward's "Stud File" included 746 cards, approximately 850 sexual partners and just shy of 5,000 individual sexual acts with another person, in addition to over 80 boxes of photographs, drawings and manuscripts.

Beyond the overtly sexual items found in collections, new meanings emerge when the implication of sex is tied to an object. A collection of pills, syringes, viles of blood and condoms is transformed when connected to sex in a post HIV/AIDS world. This selection of "collections" from theVisual AIDS archive is an exercise in perception for the viewer, curated with the unabashed implication of sex and sexuality.