Community members reflect on sexual freedom in Northwestern Sex Week art gallery

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Courtesy of Maddie McReynolds

Eden Berke’s piece “גן עדן (Garden of Eden).” Berke submitted this work for Sex Week’s virtual art gallery.

Olivia Alexander, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Through the works featured in Northwestern Sex Week’s virtual art gallery, artists reflected on their sexual freedom, the ways in which isolation impacted their relationship with sexuality and imagined a world where everyone can freely embrace pleasure.

Prior to the start of NU’s Sex Week, community members submitted art in response to prompts related to the week’s theme of “Sexual Healing.”

SESP senior and Sex Week President Eliza Gonring said the art gallery celebrates students and community members’ talents and capabilities.

“Arts are crucial (for) being in community with each other,” Gonring said. “It’s a good way to connect (while) having to be quarantined across individual households.”

As a member of the queer artist collective Living in Color, Gonring has helped showcase art in exhibitons before, but Gonring said the virtual art gallery is the first to be a part of Sex Week.

Sex Week planning committee member and Weinberg junior Maddie McReynolds said the week lends itself well to art, as both sex and visual art are methods of self expression. She said it’s natural to meld the two and consider the ways they relate to one another.

The virtual gallery, McReynolds said, is one way organizers sought to involve community members’ participation in the often speaker-oriented week of events.

“We’ll have these really great, talented speakers come in, but a lot of that is just oral presentation talking about the specific aspects of sex,” McReynolds said. ”Adding a visual art component does allow people another avenue of expression.”

SESP freshman Yaurie Hwang created a piece that was included in the exhibition. Her work is entitled “5:30 A.M.” and depicts a hand and a vagina.

Hwang said she hadn’t painted since her freshman year of high school, and the opportunity to create a piece for Sex Week sounded fun.

“(Sex) is not a topic that a lot of people do art on, or at least I haven’t done,” Hwang said. “I think Sex Week posed a good opportunity for me to explore that theme and reflect on what I think about it.”

Eden Berke, Sex Week planning committee member and SESP senior, said the gallery invites people to “put an element of themselves” on the organization’s website.

Her submission to the virtual gallery is a mixed media piece made using gel pens, watercolor and acrylic paint markers. Berke’s piece features two figures entirely encompassed in one another’s presence.

“It radiates feelings of freedom and comfort and joy and pleasure,” Berke said. “That’s a world that I would want to live in.”

Art is an extension of people, Berke said, as works come from individual creativity. To her, the gallery will help people explore their sexuality, gender identity and relationship with sex in ways they might not otherwise have been able to.

The gallery is one way participants in Sex Week can consider such aspects of their identity, Berke said.

“Often at school, we can’t bring our whole selves into work, or we’re expected not to bring our whole selves into the classroom or into other spaces,” Berke said. “We intend for (Sex Week) to be a very open space and a place where everybody can bring everything they are.”

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