Soft porn, bedazzled power tools, and a clothing swap — Strange Loop Gallery will have it all this Saturday evening!
Performance artist Tyler Ashley is doing what he assures us will be a “very rigorous, boot camp”-style nude performance using sculptures he created with power tools. And if that doesn’t grab your attention, soft porn videos featuring Ashley with the tools will also play during the event.
The tools, which Strange Loop has been exhibiting since Feb. 7, are brightly colored with spray paint and bedazzled with fake jewels, glitter, and other glitzy objects. “They’re almost presented as jewelry,” said Claire Fleury, Strange Loop’s co-owner. “It adds a sense of glamor and humor.”
The tools are named and colored after the various chakras. That name came from the first in a series of collage sculptures that I created, a chainsaw that is about two and a half feet long that’s colored orange.
What is it about tools that led you to doing these sculptures?
I grew up in northern New York, in a working class family. I’m a small-town country boy. I grew up using these tools. It was all very hands-on-deck and do it yourself. My mother was the head of the Youth Conservation Corp, and she would teach them how to use tools.
When I started to develop as a performer and artist, I kept coming back to the imagery of these tools, because they’re so powerful, and associated with destruction and creation at the same time. Those are feelings and ideas I could relate to, and am still going through on this personal evolution within gender and sexuality. The chainsaw is what it really stems from, because it’s so phallic and aggressive and violent, but then … you’re building a nature path. I relate to that — I’m cutting down this part of my personality and this part of my existence in order to create this person. It brings up such a visceral reaction. You can’t help but feel the noise in your head, and feel the capability of the power of that tool. I think that’s why I started with the chainsaw. It was such a bold example of what I was exploring artistically.
Tell me about what you use to bedazzle the tools, and the process behind that.
I’d like to say it’s more complicated than it is. It’s more about spending time with the tool… to really get an idea of its size and energy. Depending on where I get the tool and what condition it is in, I may need to drain it of oil, or get all the grease off. I spray paint it… then I use an epoxy mixture and sit for hours and hours and place each gem on individually. That kind of repetitive task-oriented practice comes into my physical performance and dance, so it relates there. I like the simple but loud statement it makes.
What made you decide to do soft porn?
What I’m doing with them is representative of a development that is much larger and richer in the landscape of growth and creation. They’re so phallic and so sexual to me. There’s this element of mystery, and anonymity. There’s some voyeurism, and I think hardcore or more explicit visual representation doesn’t allow for that, at least in what I would be creating. Soft porn is more intimate and delicate representation of this relationship. I think softcore lends itself to more delicacy and softness. It’s a little sweet. I wanted it to be a little romantic. It does get hot and heavy! I could do hardcore … I would have to think about how to safely have sex with these things.
“Swadhisthana: The Event” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22, Strange Loop Gallery, 27 Orchard St., nr. Allen St., Lower East Side