GSEC’s erotic art show: drag, burlesque and art

Hurricane Fran came out in a pink feathered robe and eventually teased it off while sauntering around the stage during Chico State’s Gender and Sexuality Equity Coalition’s erotic art show on Thursday, March 30. After pulling out a gold-handled black whip, she dramatically set a metal folding chair in the middle of the stage and escorted Mystic Merlot, one of the other performers onto the stage and into the chair.

Mystic Merlot pulled Hurricane Fran’s gloves off with her teeth and Fran settled into Merlot’s open lap. Fran then motioned for Mystic Merlot to bend over as she playfully fake whipped her.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., shoppers took a break from looking around to focus on the event’s drag and burlesque show. The show featured performers Sir Vix, Dolly LaBelle, Lulu Fatale, SolarNymph, Mystic Merlot, Cherry, Dahlia Foxx and Hurricane Fran. One after another stepped onto the Chico Women’s Club red-fringed stage and performed to strong, upbeat music.

It was during the performances that the Hula Hoop-sized black ring that hung above the stage was brought into the spotlight. SolarNymph, dressed in a muted green and blue cottagecore-themed outfit, told her story by spinning and bending around the ring.

Cherry originally took the stage in a full black skirt suit, then undressed revealing a black and red lingerie one-piece. She also used the ring to excite the audience and show off her skills. She approached the stage from the back of the audience after emcee and queer and trans program coordinator Abraham Trujillo, asked everyone to “part like the Red Sea.”

The first performer, Sir Vix, a drag king from Sacramento, brought a sense of playful color and demeanor to the stage, warming up the audience and causing them to holler toward the stage.

Dolly LaBelle and Lulu Fatale’s performances were both very similar and centered around ‘20s-themed outfits. LaBelle even used a silver and red studded stage knife and a fake human heart during her performance as a black widow. 

The audience screamed and shouted as they moved around the stage, even interacting with the audience by lightly touching them or motioning to them in a provocative manner. One audience member shouted, “Please marry me!” to Fatale as she began performing. 

Between performances, Trujillo told the audience about the importance of consent, and if viewers did not want performers to touch them, they could put their arms over their chest in an X to signal no.

He also reminded everyone that the “stage kittens,” Moonflower and Aubrey, were walking around the audience with pink buckets to collect tips for the performers.

Foxx, Chico’s favorite neighborhood swamp witch, said Trujillo, came out in a bright red corset after Williams and loved teasing the audience as she stripped down. Foxx even brought out props like red handcuffs to rile the crowd.

Seeing the beauty of the human body across all shapes and genders was the theme of the erotic art show. The presentation of different types of erotic and sensual art provided a judgment-free space for self-expression and exploration of societal taboos regarding sex, penises and vaginas.

Various smells drifted through the small hall at the Chico Women’s Club during GSEC’s erotic art show on Thursday, but the most pleasant of them were the sweet scents from Mother Porcelain’s candles.

Mother Porcelain, or Anna Gunderson, sold molded candles inspired by classic art, which included mini-recreations of the Venus de Milo, as well as various nude busts, cherubs, hearts and skulls.

Gunderson is a Chico State graduate and a managing director at the Chico Children’s Museum. She also works as a Community, Assessment, Response and Education team coach within the North Valley Community Foundation’s Thrive Initiatives. She has been selling art since she was around eight-years-old. This year’s erotic art show was the first time she has sold under her pseudonym, Mother Porcelain.

“Mother Porcelain’s is sort of a name my friends came up with for me. They would jokingly call me mother because of the way I take care of them. I have an obscure collection of porcelain dolls, thus the name ‘Mother Porcelain’s,’” Gunderson said.

Alongside her aromatic wares, she sold stone, gold-filled necklaces, rings and earrings, some of which were created from agate.

There were 17 artists sitting at display tables in and out of the hall selling erotic and non-erotic art of all forms.

As people walked between the tables in the sunlit hall, The Bella Locas, an alternative-pop band, performed on the small stage at the front of the room. 

A large black ring suspended low over the stage hung behind vocalists Susana Correa, Avila Robb, Alexis Ong and Demondra Martin. They played originals and covers from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Afterward slow, sensual pop and rhythm and blues flowed through the aged speakers for people to shop to.

At the far corner of the room there was a sheer, silver sequined sheet on the wall to take photos in front of. There were also white, pink and purple sex toy cardboard props waiting to be used on a dark wood table.

Nearby sat a frequently unmanned table for a barely mentioned or noticed raffle.

A white, dark brown and light brown vagina cupcakes sit in a triangular form on display.
Sweet Lips Cakery’s lavender lemon, ginger snap and pomegranate fudge vagina cupcakes with edible pearl clitorises. Taken by Ariana Powell, March 30.

Beside Gunderson, Sweet Lips Cakery sold the only edible erotic art. Gunderson’s friend and business partner, Tiffani Myers, manned a table selling vegan vagina cupcakes in lavender lemon, ginger snap and pomegranate fudge flavors, fit with edible pearl clitorises. 

Myers is in her last year as a social sciences major at Chico State.

“Sweet Lips isn’t very active, we’re happy to come out of hiding for events to share our love of vegan baked goods and erotic art,” Myers said.

These two tables served as an island in a circle of tables, leaving just enough space for people to take in and purchase the multitude of erotic styles.

Brittney Apel also sold jewelry.

Apel, founder of BapelArts, mainly sold mixed media resin art. Naturally elements such as butterfly wings and honeycomb were frozen by resin upon canvases, necklaces and earrings. While most of her art was not necessarily erotic, aside from some small nude busts, Apel said that she finds inspiration in a sexual nature that can be seen in the way that her art flows.

Apel is a Chico State 2020 graduate and a full-time artist. She created BapelArts only a few months after the 2018 Camp Fire.

Best friends, Maya Danek and Kristen Banchieri, shared a table at the show. On the left Banchieri, founder of Gifts and Gizmos, sold floral and nipple car vent clips, diffuser car vent clips, pins and magnets. As well as non-erotic themed earrings, including colored, transparent pacifiers and mini-books.

Three lighters in bright colors mimicking sexual body organs sits on a floral dish.
Artist Maya Danek’s erotically painted lighters sit on a display dish at GSEC’s erotic art show. Taken by Ariana Powell.

On the right, Danek, founder of Maya D Made, sold prints of GSEC’s The Vagina Monologues promo art, which she designed. And brightly colored, erotic-themed painted lighters alongside playfully designed earrings. The most prominent being medium-sized, bright yellow rubber duckies.

Danek is in her last year at Chico State as a sociology major and theater minor, she is also a GSEC intern. She said that GSEC’s erotic art show was a wonderful way for her to combine her two passions: expressing her sexuality and embracing sex and body positivity.

Founder of Kaylee Create, Kaylee Salas’ table was a point of interest for a lot of shoppers for her wares were not limited to jewelry. She sold butterfly-winged penis and nude bust pendants, as well as life-and-oversized crocheted penises, vaginas, cute frogs, as well as clothes, to name a few.

Amelia Watkins, founder of Amelia Hope, sold metal bracelets and metal-wrapped crystals fashioned like vulvas.

“I don’t typically create erotic art, but I like to throw in a couple pieces here and there for funsies. It’s a great way for me to connect with my sexuality and I like connecting with shoppers that point out that my pendants look like a vulva, because it is definitely intended to be a vulva!” Watkins, a Chico State graduate, said.

Jess Cross solely sold paper and canvas based art. Cross, who teaches part-time at Chico State and Butte College, sold realistic nude and semi-nude based oil paintings, drawings, prints and stickers of her original work. Aside from Gunderson’s candles, Cross’ work showcased the only realistic-based print medium. She printed some of her work using stone lithography.

Ginko Schabarum, pronouns he/they, a certified massage therapist, creates and sells mostly digitally-created cartoon art. Their mediums included erotic prints of digital work, pocket porn zines, stickers and block prints. The soft, pink pencil strokes, characteristic of Schabarum’s work, was the most unique aspect of their prints.

“My desire to draw started at a young age and, unsatisfied with stick figure sex scenes, I became motivated to practice form and expression,” Schabarum said. “I find pleasure in creating sensual moments. I hope to provide queer joy in gentle eroticism.”

Carolina Pollard, founder of Sandshine Glass, sold stained glass pieces, including mushroom penises and recreations of the female reproductive system. Pollard also sold hats and stickers.

Last year was the first time GSEC hosted an erotic art show since the late ‘90s-early ‘00s. Alysa Cringle, the GSEC Feminist Friday program coordinator and erotic art show planner, said that it’s important that everyone who attends events like the erotic art show are of the same mind and that GSEC is able to create a safe space in the midst of the Chico community and on-campus.

“Campus is always having scandals, so just to kind of create safe spaces where you can have a break from that is nice,” Cringle said. “Just feeling safe and feeling seen, and I also feel really good that we were able to create this space [the erotic art show] for local artists to share their work.”

While tickets to the 18+ only event were free, there was a suggested $7 donation at the GSEC table near the door. They offered shirts, pins and advertised upcoming events.

Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected].