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Originally published Friday, May 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Leave your inhibitions at the door for artful, witty Seattle Erotic Art Festival

Now in its seventh year, Seattle Erotic Art Festival is a major performance/exhibition shindig for adults that features dozens of live acts and hundreds of visual artists, from sculptors to painters to photographers.

Seattle Times arts writer

Event preview

Seattle Erotic Art Festival

Exhibitions and live entertainment, noon-4 a.m. today and Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, Seattle; $20-$25 day pass, $35-$45 festival pass, $500 for Velvet Package that includes "many sensory indulgences"; 18 and older noon-6 p.m., 21 and older after 6 p.m. (tickets: 800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com or (cash-only) Babeland, 707 E. Pike St., Seattle, 206-328-2914; information: www.seattleerotic.org).

When is a handbag not a handbag?

When it's seen from a certain angle, in a certain light, at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival.

Now in its seventh year, SEAF is a major performance/exhibition shindig for adults that features dozens of live acts and hundreds of visual artists, from sculptors to painters to photographers.

Founded in 2002 by The Foundation for Sex Positive Culture to champion "freedom of sexuality, speech and creativity through the erotic expression of fine art," it doesn't always escape the cheesy or tacky. But the best stuff is hilarious, sublime or a combo of the two.

Case in point: musical headliners, the Wet Spots. This husband-and-wife duo is a sweetly X-rated, proudly Canadian answer to New Zealand's Flight of the Conchords. Imagine the frank sexual musings and advice of Sue Johanson (host of Oxygen's "Talk Sex") set to hummable tunes, ranging from cocktail smoothness to country twang, and you'll have an idea of what this Vancouver-based act is up to. Some of their rhymes are Cole Porter-worthy, and onstage they're a lewd marvel of comic timing (see for yourself at www.wetspotsmusic.net).

Numerous local talents also take part in the three-day event, including veterans of the "nouveau burlesque" circuit Cherry Manhattan, Waxie Moon and Lily Verlaine. DJs, drag queens, acrobats and aerial artists will ply their trades. Instructional rope bondage will be offered by Twisted Monk ("Monk tied his first knot in Cub Scouts, but it would be years before he understood why it made him so happy").

As for the visual arts, there's too much to cover, but special mention should go to photographers Tony Labadie (whose digitally altered man-animal hybrids prowl Parisian alleyways), Robert Cazares (petal-soft close-ups of flowers in a Mapplethorpe vein), Michael Thomas Ford and Draga Jovanovic (both doing Cindy Sherman-like dress-up) and Vicki Marie Stolsen (whose "That Ain't Right" series discreetly puts G.I. Joe and Barbie into poses more carnal and fluid than you'd ever guess plastic could be).

Two black-and-white underwater shots of dancers in dynamic motion — by a photographer who goes by "gmark" — and a color photo, "Underwater Dancer" by David Peterman, may be the best things here. But the whole photo lineup is strong.

The painting is a mixed bag, but with some wit on view (fireman humor in Sean McGarry's "First Responder Ben") and some bold gender-blending (a male and female figure with overlapping mouths in Troy Gua's "The Pleasure's All Mine").

As for that handbag that isn't a handbag, it's a carefully placed found object by Deborah Alma Wheeler with a title that can't be printed here. But it's the first thing you'll see when you click on www.seattleerotic.org.

Note: Much if not all the work here is explicit. But when imaginations are this hard at work, it's the art you see — not just the genitalia.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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