Nineteen years ago, Alwun House director Kim Moody got a suggestion so good that it spawned a wildly popular, one-of-a kind tradition in the Phoenix art community.
One of the board members of the restored house turned gallery and performance space, Arizona State University professor of art Rudy Turk, recommended creating a special event that would feature artwork that wasn't necessarily typical of the artists represented.
"Every artist has something that's unusual," says Moody. That is, unusual meaning risqué, suggestive or just bizarre.
With the strange and sensual pieces of art assembled at Alwun, Moody heeded Turk's advice and called the show "Exotic Art."
"Rudy said that everyone will read it as 'erotic,'" says Moody. A brilliant observation from Turk, who later had another great idea which he helped turn into the Nelson Fine Arts Center at ASU.
Over the years, the opening night of "Exotic Art" has evolved into a huge, highly anticipated annual event at Alwun House. "Now it has its own crowd," Moody notes. Last year, devoted attendees snatched up more than 600 tickets for the sold-out show, and a line snaked halfway around the block as ticketless would-be revelers patiently waited for their turn to join the festivities.
This year's opening will showcase more than 120 pieces created by 60 different artists, including paintings by Turk, Robert Anderson, Steven Yazzie and Randy Slack, and photographs by Denton Hanna and Wesley Cleveland. "Exotic Art" will also feature works in a variety of non-traditional media, from delicate to daring, such as Deon Allen's erotic amulets, Mark Villman's lacewood cabinet and a fully functional assault rifle handpainted by Spyder Yardley-Jones.
Enhancing the atmosphere will be a full lineup of entertainment on two stages. Musical acts include the band Spider Hole and poetic didgeridoo-and-drumming from Last Wave, as well as appearances by drag queens Ivanna Bump and Barbara Seville. Contemporary troupe Open Dance, Kamasutra-posing group Unity in Motion and mud-smearing modern ensemble Infinite Momentum will inspire the imagination with their creative dances. And did we mention the fire breathers?
Dana Johnson, president of Alwun House Foundation, hopes people will be enticed by the edibles, too. "We're making all sorts of cordial dips to go with our chocolate lips," he says devilishly, describing mouth-watering cookies, candies and homemade dessert dips that will make "Exotic Art" a little sweeter.
Art-in-progress is also planned for the opening night; a live nude woman will offer her skin as the canvas for a painting that will be created on location. "Don't come if you're easily blushed," says Moody with a laugh.