daas Gallery challenges, delights a mature Audience with Skin

The Daas Gallery's 'Skin 2011' opening in downtown Fort Myers.

Photo by MIKE KINIRY // Buy this photo

The Daas Gallery's "Skin 2011" opening in downtown Fort Myers.

David Acevedo & Xavior Brignoni - owners of the Daas Gallery at their 'Skin 2011' opening in downtown Fort Myers.

Photo by MIKE KINIRY // Buy this photo

David Acevedo & Xavior Brignoni - owners of the Daas Gallery at their "Skin 2011" opening in downtown Fort Myers.

'Tribal Tattoo' (closeup) by John Kohlburn - one of more than 30 pieces featured in the Daas Gallery's 'Skin 2011' opening in downtown Fort Myers.

Photo by MIKE KINIRY // Buy this photo

"Tribal Tattoo" (closeup) by John Kohlburn - one of more than 30 pieces featured in the Daas Gallery's "Skin 2011" opening in downtown Fort Myers.

— The perspective of the room is vague.

The only shadows fall beneath the woman’s neck and pendulous breasts. Her nakedness is obscured by the large cross she cradles between both thumbs and forefingers, forming a triangle beneath her rounded belly.

The hands are the only active elements in the painting. The woman’s gaze is set straight ahead, challenging the viewer with its lack of expression.

This is “Woman with a Crucifix,” an oil and multimedia painting by Daniel Venditti, on display now at Skin 2011, a new exhibit at daas Gallery in Fort Myers.

Many of the 30+ artists’ works go beyond classical nude studies and delve boldly into stark eroticism. At its opening during Art Walk on July 1, gallery goers displayed a variety of reactions to the works, ranging from delight to some obvious discomfort.

The visitors were not the only ones.

Venditti said that in keeping with much of his work, there is an autobiographical element here – an examination of parts of his Catholic upbringing in this case.

He admitted the use of religious symbolism in the painting, which won second prize in this juried exhibition, made even him uncomfortable.

“It made me feel a certain way,” he said, “which made me sure other people would feel a certain way, which is the point.”

When Skin first debuted in 2009, daas co-owner David Acevedo recalled some apprehension that Fort Myers maybe wasn’t ready for the onslaught of blatant sexuality.

“I thought I was going to find some resistance to the material,” he remembered.

Some startled visitors admittedly made an about face at the door.

For the most part, however, he was surprised at the welcoming attitude of adventurous Art Walkers. Many commented they were pleased the gallery was bringing a different flavor to the area.

In fact, he said people wouldn’t leave the gallery.

“They actually hung around longer than during the other exhibits,” Acevedo.

Cindy Jane won first prize with her painting, Potent Elixir.

The surrealist underwater scene is laced with overtly sexual images, and is a bit of a departure for the artist.

She expects that anyone familiar with her work will recognize it as one of hers.

“Only the content, in keeping with the theme of the show, is more erotic,” Jane said.

daas Gallery prides itself on bringing art to Fort Myers that is as “outside the box as possible.”

The Skin portfolio, which is billed as “The maybe not for everyone” exhibit of the year, certainly qualifies.

At the opening, the small gallery was packed, making navigating the exhibit a physical challenge.

One older woman stepped through the door and then out again, claiming, “It’s hot in here.”

It was difficult to tell if the content or the overworked air conditioning was to blame.

Some younger adults were observed trying to stifle giggles.

But local Fort Myers authors Jim and Jane Kaserman, 69 and 70, admired the offerings.

Jim Kaserman’s assessment of the theme: “This is called what freedom is.”

Acevedo acknowledged it’s something you “normally don’t see here.”

But with the energy Art Walk has generated in the past few years, he thinks Fort Myers is ready for art that delivers a jolt of sexual energy.

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