It’s basic biology, the remnants of our cave-dwelling seasonal libido. In the springtime, we’re more prone to flirting and romance. We start peeling off the layers and baring some skin. College students hit the beaches. Online dating site activity goes up. Conception rates peak. But if you’re really daring this spring mating season, the Columbus arts scene has two events that will challenge your thinking about sexuality, and perhaps help you redefine the world’s oldest human ritual.
After Dark… at Thurber House
The busy schedule for the spring 2015 Thurber House Adult Writing Workshop Series was filled with classes on publication, storytelling, mystery, and characterization. But still, something was missing. Some time needed to be set aside for…well, sex.
“Thurber House After Dark: The Difference Between Writing Sex and Writing Erotica,” a brand-new workshop scheduled for June 11, will explore the difference between arousing literature and writing meant simply to arouse.
The session will be lead by Susanne Jaffe, the Thurber House creative director, whose background includes writing, editing, and teaching. She hopes to combat the idea—perpetuated by the phenomenal self-published success of Fifty Shades of Grey, which was hitting movie theaters at the time the Thurber House was planning their workshop—that writing about sex is easy, or that it isn’t anything more than “housewife pornography.”
Sex has always been a part of storytelling, even in ancient and medieval periods, but erotic fiction—the genre of literature that deals with sex and sexual themes—was given a new life and a new medium with the rise of the 18th-century novel, particularly John Cleland’s Fanny Hill. Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, both by Henry Miller, Story of O by Pauline Réage, and Little Birds by Anaïs Nin have become notable 20th-century works of classic erotic fiction. While the prominent action of Fifty Shades was allegedly culled by author E. L. James from sex fantasy forums online, erotic fiction is structured similarly to most general fiction.
“It always, always comes down to the writing. You have three-dimensional characters, you have a narrative arc, you have plot points, you have sub-characters, you have subplots,” Jaffe explained. “[The sex] is all pertinent to the unfolding of the character, the unfolding of the action. It’s not gratuitous.”
The Thurber House writing workshops, although taught by professional writers and editors, are designed for writers of all levels, at whatever stage in their projects they happen to be. The “After Dark” workshop will include wine and chocolate as an additional sensual experience.
“This is a very friendly atmosphere—no judgment, no critiquing,” Jaffe said. “People walk out with a sense that, ‘I can do this too.’”
Registration for the Adult Writing Workshop Series, and all of the events at Thurber House, can be found at thurberhouse.org.
The lens of James Drakeford’s camera is focused on the individual, and his latest photography project, Sexy: An Alternative Perspective, asks us to create a less generic and less media-driven definition of sexual appeal.
“One of the main inspirations is my dislike of objectification,” explained Drakeford. “Sex sells, always will. We know this. But I think individuals are worth seeking, too.”
Sexy seeks to capture women’s self-expression, a different modality than being “on display” for attention or approval. Confidence, energy, and an uplifting vibe are visual themes in the project.
The exhibit riffs off Drakesford’s previous project, Black Innocence, a series of candid photos of African-American children in the Weinland Park area that reveal the natural purity of youth. Both are “rebranding” projects, bringing subjects with frequent negative associations or a lack of public awareness in front of an audience and instead portraying them as uplifting. Drakeford’s next exhibition about cultural duality will follow a similar vein.
Drakeford has found an artistic home in Columbus—one that blends many of his interests.
“I’ve always been a fan of photography. I just didn’t recognize it,” said Drakeford, a Dayton native who moved to Columbus to attend college. “I started taking photos around 2010 just for fun, and in 2012 I kind of got serious with it, saved up for months and invested in a decent camera. Ever since 2012, I’ve been pretty consistent with photography. I take photos all the time—I love it.”
Being surrounded by the Columbus creative community has also been inspirational for Drakeford, who has found the city receptive to his work, and as a foodie, he’s especially excited that Till Dynamic Fare will host his work through the beginning of June.
“I’ve been inspired to tell a different story, to expand the definition of sexy a bit,” he said. “I think the most sexy characteristics are the ones that make each person unique—the combination and accumulation of one’s character, habits, interests, ambitions, the energy they share. There’s nothing like the only one.”
Sexy will be on display starting May 2 at Till Dynamic Fare Gallery, 247 King Ave.