"Choke" by Alycia Helbling is one of the pieces on display at Salem on the Edge for an erotic art exhibit in February 2021. (Courtesy/ Melanie Weston)

When Melanie Weston opened her art gallery Salem on the Edge in downtown Salem last year, she already had one exhibit she knew she wanted to host: an erotic art show.

“Just because it’s fun,” Weston said. “I want to push other art forms, that it’s not just flower or landscape.”

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, visitors to Salem on the Edge can see “Erotica: An Exhibition to Arouse,” featuring images of yonic flowers, couples embracing and men in lingerie. Most of the art is for sale.

The gallery, located at 156 Liberty St N.E., is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m on Wednesdays and Thursdays., 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

On Friday, the gallery will open for the monthly First Friday Art Walk from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Weston put out a call on social media for artists to submit their erotic work.

She had Deanne Beausoleil, who teaches art history at Chemeketa Community College, choose the winning entries because Weston knew some of the artists who submitted work.

Beausoleil, divided the pieces into five categories: beautiful boys, botanica, couples, preferences and the gaze.

The exhibit shows works that exemplify the “female gaze,” an artistic approach that subverts the ubiquitous approach of depicting women in art and movies as sexual objects for heterosexual men. The exhibit puts the same gaze on men.  

In the show, there are artworks with men in various states of undress, from a photograph of a man in his underwear to a wooden figure of a man with wooden with a very specific part that pops out when touched.  

In total, Weston said 19 artists had their pieces accepted for the exhibit out of 29 people who submitted pieces. All are from Oregon, she said.

Years ago, Weston said she entered an erotica show in Seattle that featured some of her work.

“It was something different, it pushed me to do imagery I hadn’t done before,” she said. 

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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