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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 27, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 21
Becoming a work of art at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival
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Becoming a work of art at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival

by Nate Gowdy - SGN Contributing Writer

I've long dreamed of a 'pleasure activist,' preferably one with an accent, asking me to get naked. This past weekend I got my wish, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

It all started when James Beard Award-winning chef and self-described 'pleasure activist' Tiberio Simone's publicist emailed, inviting me to model nude for Tiberio and his collaborator, photographer Matt Freedman. I could write a piece on their new book, La Figa: Visions of Food and Form, five years in the making and being launched that weekend at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival. She suggested it'd be fun to write about the experience of being covered with food for art's sake. Plus, I'd go home with photos!

I had my doubts. Tiberio sure didn't sound like the name of the Italian supermodel of my dreams (who, I'd like to note, I dreamed about before dating my tasty girlfriend Lydia). Second, I'm Seattle Gay News' photographer - not the photographee! Being someone else's potato chip dip for an afternoon, eyed from across the room by erotic art lovers? Yikes!

Still, I guess I saw the potential for a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime memory.

So I call Lydia up and, stressing how something strange and wonderful happens whenever we undress for one another anyway, I artfully ask if she might do it with me. Just for good measure, I add an 'I love you' - the cherry on top (I dunno about boyfriends, but girlfriends eat that stuff up). She enthusiastically agrees to get naked with me.

Shift to four days later, and there we are at SEAF, laying naked on a table for Tiberio (fortunately for Lydia, I'm on top, to be covered with food and exposed to the cold air while keeping her warm underneath). La Figa Cafe's installation assistant, wearing tight gold lame shorts, feeds us milk chocolate penises, golden dark chocolate vulva caliente, and, my favorite, white chocolate lavender hearts with pink salt to help pass the time.

Half an hour to an hour later, our bodies are blooming more and more with color - like Mt. Vernon tulips in April - our surfaces covered in purple potatoes, cherry tomatoes, baby watermelon, champagne mango, red radish, plums, zucchini, sweet potato slices, and olive oil (used as adhesive).

Tiberio maintains an open air about him, which makes for great conversation. He doesn't like bad poetry, his penis is named Gino, and he wants us to know most of the content in his book is for people of all ages and is only occasionally risqué. Not only is it an exploration featuring over 150 images, 20 recipes, and 40 essays about food, love, and life; it's a way of life.

From poverty in rural Italy to teen prostitution to being a paratrooper and, finally, finding himself in Seattle 20 years ago for love, Tiberio's path has been a transition from 'bad food and bad touch' to a celebration of 'natural beauty and fresh flavors' and, of course, 'good food and good touch.'

Meanwhile, Matt the photographer, who's known for his colorful photographs of the Burning Man festival as well as his iPhone app about it, is also at work. He, along with an interested cadence of passers-by, takes our picture. I ask one gentleman if we can look for his photos later online sometime; he shies away from an answer (one of the perils of posing nude in public, I guess). Another man wearing a Utilikilt outs himself as an 'official' event photographer and informs us we may find his pics online eventually.

A woman calls out, 'Look, it's art!' Duh, of course it's art, I think aloud. A woman's torso made of Legos that way, a painting of a dinosaur making love to a happy-looking robot over yonder, and photographs of unmentionables coming at festival attendees from all sides - fine art is all around us.

I look up to judge her for her way of stating the obvious. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to catch her marveling at the food nudes in front of her, particularly my buttocks. It's been covered with fluffy orange sweet potato slices.

Check out Tiberio and Matt's tasteful work at www.lafigaproject.com. Their book just came out. My bet is you'll eat it up (just like girlfriends eat up 'I love you').

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