Art at Affirmations
“Would you like to see my tats?” asks Chris Posler, 45. “I have 20 of them.” As a fan of tattoo artistry I of course say yes. “Follow me,” winks Chris, a tad eager to show off his private collection of body art.
In the men’s room just off the Affirmations Art Gallery Chris takes off his shirt and shows me a splendid array of finely detailed designs.
“These are HIV sperm woven into interlacing patterns on my forearms,” he explains. “These are Tom of Finland leather men.” The tattoo work, much of it done in Chicago, is expert, well executed, shaded with controlled modulation.
On his chest is lettered, “HIV Positive Bears.” Turning around he offers a waist upward showing of his back, richly embellished over every available inch of muscle with patterns worthy of famed Japanese Schools of tattoo artists.” (Lest anyone entering the men’s room get the wrong impression, Chris modestly declines to exhibit his lower torso. I, equally modest, hide my disappointment.)
But tonight’s exhibit isn’t about Chris. It’s about the art of his P-FLAG mom, accomplished artist Sharlet Vaughn DiGiorgio. It’s also about his step-dad, retired Garden City Public Schools educator, well-known Downriver poet, Pietro. On display through November 30 are 26 of Sharlet’s works, 26 of Pietro’s succinct, metaphysical, hauntingly beautiful poems, interlaced between pictures. A marriage of harmonized, transcendental minds.
The theme of Sharlet’s exhibit, one of the most successful in terms of attendance — and sheer artistry — since the gallery space opened in April (over 150 attending), is best summed up from Pietro’s poem, Line Dancers: “We have drawn a line/ Against ignorance,/ For we speak without words,/ Our body paint/ Loudly proclaiming/ Who we are.”
And what of Sharlet’s work? First, she’s thrilled to be exhibiting again for the first time in a very long time. Second, she’s proud (and, I’ll add, she clearly radiates this pride to everyone) to have her ‘welcoming back’ showing at Affirmations.
“My collection is called, Children of the Rainbow. My intent is giving visual expression to the importance of community as well as the uniqueness of each individual — showing the dignity, beauty and pride of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender populations. It’s my tribute through paint, fiber — and my love as the mother of a gay son and a longtime P-FLAG activist.
“Much of my work, even the colorful fibers, celebrates body adornment. I’m intrigued with tattoos as a medium of expression, artistically and emotionally. A portion of the body-art in my exhibit is inspired by my interest — and that of Pietro’s — in ancient civilizations and mythology.
“My reputation, I like to think, is built as a figure painter in oils. Several of these canvases are literal translations of the human form. Others are more abstract. But the whole body of work expresses my drive to combine color and form with the all encompassing aspects of LGBT culture that Affirmations represents.”
While Sharlet’s work finds its source in tattoo art (Chris’s bodywork and piercings are certainly key), her work is simple in choice of bright, spectrum-warm colors, economy of line, juxtaposition of images (human, mythological, floral, abstract). She captures what’s essentially the essence of body embellishment in a near minimalist fashion.
She works in many media: oil, acrylic, etching, lino-cut, collage, and quilted fabric. Two of the fabric works (Doppelganger; Child of the Light) are fine examples of this genre (and fit in neatly with the Arts & Crafts Festival that opened on Saturday for one da). Sharlet’s art is very modestly priced — in time for the holidays — a portion of which goes to benefit Affirmations.
All framed poetry is included with the sale of art pieces. A signed copy of poetry will be provided upon request.
“Join us,” invites Pietro’s Line Dancers. “For there is joy in our dance./ Join us in battering bigotry –/Chasing it to live with scorpions,/ While our dance continues,/ Skin shouting personhood and community.”
Yes, yes, art lovers: Slip me some skin!