Tucson Erotica Art Show removes stigmas around sex

When Tucson Erotica Art Show (TEAS) President and Organizer Grace M first came to Tucson in 2018, she walked past the Sculptural Resource Center and witnessed a large gilded penis in the middle of the room. “It was magical,” she said.

M is a sex worker and fell in love with the idea of TEAS. She grew up in a Christian conservative household, and says she felt shame over her own body and sexuality. She’s been unlearning those ideas since leaving that household, therefore TEAS seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue her journey of sexual exploration, education, and normalization.

“There's so many amazing artists, and business owners and people that I know in town that do amazing things for the city funded by sex work, but sex work is still this like taboo subject,” M said.

Let’s face it, sex work is work and almost everyone has sex. These topics shouldn’t create dividing lines, they should be bringing people together. M saw the potential in TEAS of doing exactly that throughout March. With M at the helm, TEAS is more about community and not just “painting boobs on a canvas”. M also spearheaded the process of making the show a registered nonprofit organization.

TEAS normally takes place every spring at the Sculptural Resource Center just outside of downtown. The art on display is everything from fantasy-inspired dildos, jewelry, leather harnesses, paintings, ceramics, sculptures, and mixed media pieces. This year, however, the Erotica show expanded to include multiple galleries around town. M said she hopes every gallery in Tucson will participate in the future.

“The art show can act as a bridge for people to just have a better understanding about themselves and about sexuality in general,” M said.

The Sculptural Resources Center gallery exhibit is open to the public every weekend through March, Friday to Sunday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. A $10 donation is suggested for entry. &Gallery on 4th Ave. just wrapped up its art exhibit in partnership with TEAS titled, “Tucson is Hot AF”.

Although &Gallery has wrapped up their exhibit, there are more events to attend throughout March. This Saturday, March 19, TEAS and the Screening Room are partnering to present TEASR Short Film Festival from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The film fest will screen international and local erotic films. Tickets are $10 on the Tucson Erotica website, tucsonerotica.com. The local film section is also a competition with cash prizes. Contestants have a week to make their short films in accordance with keywords and rules sent to them by M. This works as Tucson’s own version of Dan Savage’s HUMP! Film Festival.

Linda from Basside, a hip hop duo, said they entered their own short film into the competition this year. According to Linda, this year’s keyworks were wood, shadow, wet, coin, and static.

While also being a volunteer for Tucson Erotica, Linda and her partner Caro performed their Basside music during opening night on March 5. Both wore bikinis with attached stuffed animals for the performance. Friends since they were 13, the duo have undeniable chemistry on stage. The crowd jumped to every bass-heavy track and cheered on the duo after every rap portion.

“It’s unlike anything else, there's an energy we create that I don't feel when we're not together,” Linda said.

Their performance as Basside also aligned with the mission of TEAS. Linda and Caro are sex-positive. So sex-positive in fact that Linda forgot an event like this could rub people the wrong way.

“(Grace) was like, what if people come protest if people get angry at us, and I was like, ‘how's anyone gonna get angry?’ I was so oblivious to the fact that people would actually get upset by erotica and it doesn't make any sense to me. I mean, I talked about it so openly,” Linda said.

Luckily, no protests have been reported thus far.

“I feel like sex is the great equalizer,” M said, “Like, no matter how much money you have, or where you were born, or where you came from like you can have great sexual health, on your own and I think it's just a beautiful thing that people could do for themselves, regardless of what anyone tells them.”

Check out the film fest this Saturday and purchase tickets on tucsonerotica.com. The Sculptural Center will also host an Erotica Poetry Night Saturday, March 26, from 7 to 11 pm. Closing night will be An Erotic Carnival at the Sculptural Resource Center on April 2 from 6 to 10 pm. Stay updated on new shows or merchandise by following the TEAS Instagram @tucsonerotica.