The Dong Show a success despite facing criticisms
Doug Mckinnon, artist and owner of the Stoneworx Gallery in Art Central, is receiving criticism for his newest exhibition called “The Dong Show.”
“The Dong Show” includes paintings by Daniel Audet, sculptures by Tobias Luttmer, photographs by Alicia Hoogveld, as well as other mediums from various artists.
Lisa Heinricks, events co-ordinator at Stoneworx Gallery, came up with the idea for the show – to celebrate a male form that has been underappreciated in the art community.
The discussion came up when Heinricks was talking to other artists from Stoneworx Gallery. “Lisa was like, ‘I want to do a male nude sometime. No one does a male nude,’” Audet, artist and Stoneworx manager, said.
The exhibition opened Sept. 1 to coincide with Calgary Pride Week and despite negative responses from people who Mckinnon says “haven’t moved into the next century,” he said the exhibition has been a “very successful event because art promotes a reaction – whether it’s positive or negative.”
The show had overwhelming support when it opened, but when Audet went to the streets of Stephen Avenue to paint and exhibit his nudes before the gallery opening, he ran into some controversy.
“Someone phoned the Downtown Calgary Association who gave me the tent and said they had received formal complaints. They said, ‘no, it’s got to go’,” Audet stated.
He said the genitals in the painting were covered during the painting process on Stephen Avenue, so the request for removal was unexpected.
“They asked me to stop painting that painting – which is not acceptable.”
However, Caralyn Macdonald, Downtown Calgary Association’s communications manager, said they “let Audet know that the artwork was becoming too revealing to be family friendly, and then he decided to stop working on them.”
Mckinnon said he was also surprised and disappointed at the double standard between seeing a nude female as opposed to nude male.
“It was quite shocking — this is Calgary in 2011 with a mayor who was in the Pride Parade, and yet we have people who are so vocal about it.”
Though Mckinnon has seen criticism like this in his career as an artist, he says he’s never seen a double standard so dramatically defended.
A month earlier, Audet said he was in the same location on Stephen Avenue painting a female nude and no issues were raised.
“It was all acceptable. The human form is normal and natural. It’s not a bad thing,” Mckinnon says.
Sometimes there can be the occasional “hiccup” he said, as well as more rare issues of verbal harassment from patrons on Stephen Avenue.
“Daniel (Audet) had religious groups circling him and calling him names that were fairly derogatory.”
That very same painting was sold the very first night of the exhibition.
Still, even with some criticism, Mckinnon said they were happy to be part of Calgary’s art scene, prompting a contrary philosophy.
Jill Arnett, a frequent visitor of Art Central, found exhibition fascinating and said she wished she had more time to view the pieces.
“I love it because it’s a juxtaposition to all the other art,” she explained.
“The Dong Show” runs until Oct. 3 at Stoneworx Gallery on the top floor of Art Central in downtown Calgary.
- By JODI EGAN