Exhibit Uses John Holmes to Make a Point

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from www.press-citizen.com – An exhibit on display at the University of Iowa is taking the “Herky on Parade” concept to a new extreme.

“The John Holmes Prick Parade,” a collection of decorated plaster castings of the late pornography star’s penis, is the brainchild of 27-year-old M.F.A. sculpture student Emily Moran Barwick [pictured]. More than two-dozen life-size castings are on display through Sept. 18 in the Eve Drewelowe Gallery in the Studio Arts Building.

Each sculpture has a different theme and unique name, and each attempts to demonstrate the message of the body as a product, Barwick said.

The exhibit, which opened Tuesday, is receiving careful treatment by UI administration.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said signs have been posted to warn visitors that the material may be controversial and the gallery’s doors will remain closed so no one may be unintentionally exposed.

“This is a matter of artistic expression, and the proper controls are in place to alert visitors of what they may encounter,” Moore said. “But the gallery is open.”

Barwick said the exhibit is a take on the “Herky on Parade” public art project, which took place in Iowa City in 2004. UI and several local organizations created the public art project as a take-off on Chicago’s successful “Cows on Parade.” Artists painted and decorated 75 blank statues of Herky, which were placed around town and later sold as a fundraiser.

Barwick said her project also demonstrates how easily someone’s body part can become “a commodity item.”

She said she first saw a replica of the casting while working at a novelty store in her hometown in Florida.

“It was a cast directly from his body, and it seemed an absurd thing to replicate someone’s body part,” she said. “It’s interesting to me that people potentially are having posthumous sex with this. It made me (think about) body ownership and who owns the body and who is licensed to the body.”

To make her project collaborative, Barwick sent plaster castings of a mold she purchased online to volunteers as far away as Miami who wanted to contribute to the project.

Moore said UI implements a set of guidelines about what is deemed tasteful and appropriate for its art students to create, and this particular project falls within those guidelines.

“There is no attempt to censor an artist as long as they meet those guidelines,” he said.

Benjamin Chait, owner of Chait Galleries Downtown in Iowa City, said putting the human form on display is nothing new.

“I would invite you to come into our gallery and look at our penis art. We have quite a bit of it, and we don’t find it offensive,” he said. “It’s all in the context in which it’s offered.”

Isabel Barbuzza, associate professor of sculpture in the School of Art and Art History, and the school’s director, John Beldon Scott, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Barwick said though she has received indirect negative feedback about the project, she didn’t “do the show in order to upset people.”

“It’s not meant to be a shock thing. I have always been far more open with things than I think most people are,” she said. “It’s just an interesting subject matter, but people are entitled to their opinions.”

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