“Warning: Please be aware that this exhibition contains images that could be unsettling or offensive to some viewers.” This caveat greets visitors as they enter the doors to the Hartnett Gallery where “Pleasures of Being a Dog” is on exhibition. The artist, Peter Hobbs, is a doctoral candidate in Visual and Cultural Studies at UR.
Hobbs has voiced his concerns regarding the warning signs because they seem to present the idea that content of a homosexual nature is undeniably offensive before viewers enter Hartnett.
The duality of nature and sexuality is addressed in his current creation. Wooden plaques display erotic images of men in various stages of sexual behavior, including masturbation and anal sex, juxtaposed with images of animals, nature and social behavior. Hobbs considers “sexuality and nature as two technologies that can be used to both fortify and complicate our lives and values.” While he denies that nature is inantely gay, he believes that our “experience of nature” is.
Some of the connections made seem clich and obvious, such as the images of a squirrel with nuts in its mouth, a woodpecker and a sperm whale, while others seem more thought-provoking, like the images of Karl Marx, the digestive systems of various animals and Sigmund Freud.
Hobbs has also erected – no pun intended – a vast patchwork tent, which is filled with pillows and blankets. In his essay, “The Sewing Desire Machine,” Hobbs asserts that the device that has created the tent and pillows, the sewing needle, “is both prick and hole – it penetrates and is penetrated.” Sewing is conventionally considered to be performed by females. Thus, the defiance of gender roles indicates a type of homosexual desire.
In the past, Hobbs has been quoted as saying, “I’m not out to shock for shock’s sake, but when it happens, it’s worth asking why people get upset.” It is apparent that the issues being addressed in the exhibit have offended certain people. “We are young adults, and many of us are having sex,” senior Genevieve Markey said. Therefore, we should be at the maturity level to handle such an exhibit. She also points out that how remarkable it is that the Hartnett Gallery is able to display art that will appeal to a more liberal crowd.
2003 UR graduate Erez Solomon supports Hobbs’s artistic display. “Far from simply another gay porn site, Peter Hobbs’ new work is an engagement with masculinity that pushes us to question the ways in which our ‘social contracts’ continually unhinge normalized behavior in the face of the Hobbesian savage wild fantasy,” Solomon said.
“The Pleasure of Being a Dog” is on display in the Hartnett Gallery until Dec. 17 and is free of charge.
Feel free to stop by, view the connections Hobbs explores and even take a tour inside the “Pleasure Palace.” According to sophomore Mary Smith, you should come check it out because “it’s hot!”
Martin can be reached at email@example.com.