Artist talks provocative, phallic artwork


Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth Wood | The Daily Eastern News Nicolas Guagnini, a contemporary artist, writer and filmmaker, discusses the ideas that inspired his art pieces at his exhibit, “Twilight of the Idols,” at the Tarble Arts Center on Thursday night, which will be the closing exhibit from Tarble’s “Art Speaks!” series. Guagnini said his main inspiration behind his clay sculptures was to make them without the distraction of technology, and they consist of ears, noses, hands or penises.

Austen Brown, Staff Reporter

The Tarble Arts Center hosted a guest artist Thursday who is known for his controversial and explicit works.

Mike Schuetz, the interim director and chief curator of Tarble, said the program, called “Art Speaks!” features an artist that provides context into his or her works, which are usually on display in the exhibits. 

The visiting artist, Nicolas Guagnini, has sculptures and his typography piece on display at Tarble.

Guagnini has always been one for pieces featuring explicit appendages, but one of his most recent works is entirely centered on male genitalia. 

The message underlying, he says, is that with such a distracting font, the message the letters spell is difficult to be discerned when the mind is preoccupied with the idea that all the letters are genitalia.

The seemingly immature exhibit, called “Dickface,” features an alphabet made up completely of penises — a statement that seems immature on the surface, but which holds deeper meaning, he says. 

He said the goal of the piece is to get exposure during the age of the internet, where physical art has a place only in pictures and thus can be outshined by another viral photo.

This is a sentiment expressed in his newspaper-like piece, “Some Notes on Dickface.”

The piece features images from the American Civil War, the holocaust, hoarders, and more that can prove to be difficult to look at.

Each feature is accompanied with a paragraph typed entirely in “Dickface” presenting Guagnini’s perspective on these grotesque topics.

One such paragraph describes the customary Ancient Egyptian legal punishment of amputation of the nose and the symbolism of such a penance.

Alongside the paragraph, the piece features many ancient sculptures of people with the nose piece on the sculpture broken off. 

Of the Ancient Egyptian “Great Harem Conspiracy,” Guagnini writes, “Some of the accused were condemned to mutilation of the nose, including two judges found guilty of succumbing to the seduction of some women involved in the plot.”

The other piece of the exhibit is four sculpted pieces, which are made of clay noses, feet, genitalia, and other body parts stacked in odd juxtaposition.

While Guagnini did not go into much detail about the meaning of these pieces, he said the art of sculpting is incredibly lucrative and well worth the cost of materials. 

He said the price to bake the pieces in a pottery oven was exorbitant for the average ceramic worker, but much more reasonable when making something so intricate it can be sold for a much greater price than a plate or a vase.

The exhibition, titled “Twilight of the Idols,” will be on display at the art studio until next Sunday.

Other artists hosted by Tarble this semester included Federico Solmi, Rachel Monosov, Aram Han Sifuentes.

Austen Brown can be reached at 582-2182 or [email protected].