This week Smitten Kitten, the Lyn-Lake adult toy boutique, is celebrating Black History Month with an exhibition exploring sexuality that showcases work by a group of African American artists. The opening reception is tonight, and features pieces by Joy E.A. Spika, Bobby Rogers, Amina Harper, and Ron Brown.
Alicia Steele, TSK's events and outreach coordinator, curated the exhibit. She thought that Black History Month would be a great opportunity to fill the store with art, and showcase Twin Cities artists of color who are working with sex-positive images.
"We live in such a sex-negative culture," Steele says. "Finding spaces where you can be sex-positive is rare."
In contrast to how Black History Month is usually celebrated, which often is very generalized, Steele, who has a degree in African American Studies from the University of Minnesota, says the show offers a venue to expand how we talk about Black history.
Amina Harper, one of the featured artists, says she's grateful for the chance to show some of her more graphic work. "I like racially positive stories and sexually positive images, and to combine those together is really exciting," she says.
The work that Harper is showing has never been displayed before in a public space. When she submits pieces to galleries, she is often told to "tone it down." In this particular situation, where penises are all over the place anyway, no one is telling her to police herself. She gets to show all the nudity, genitalia, and fluids that she wants. "I have freedom," she says. "It's a chance for people to actually see a side of my work that's a little more graphic."
"Sex is a part of humanity," says Harper. In terms of the sexuality that we see in the media, "there's a lot of uncharted territory that people are afraid to talk about." People don't go far enough, she says, because they are afraid.
As an African American artist, Harper draws people of all different races, but she's aware that when she draws people of color, it changes the context of the image for some viewers. "It gives it this whole other narrative," she says.
She's also aware that as a minority voice in the art world, she doesn't see a lot of women of color represented. "You have to carve out your niche if you want to see yourself represented," she says.
"Celebrating Black Art"
There will be an opening reception from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, February 19
The Smitten Kitten
3010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
The show runs through March 3