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Art without Warnings

Bill Arning’s latest show is guaranteed to shock and enlighten.

Bill Arning (photo by Mark S. McCray)

Art walks a fine line between tasteful expression and unwavering truth. Bill Arning’s upcoming exhibit, No Trigger Warnings, tap-dances on both sides of that line, ultimately calling the viewer to ask if art should be dangerous and shocking.

On show at Flatland Gallery, 1709 Westheimer Road, the exhibit will provide a collection of unforgettable artworks that will provoke all types of reactions. Arning hopes one of those reactions is offense.

“I come from a punk-rock background where offense was always part of the aesthetic. So many artists want things to be risky and problematic, and they’re not scared of trying to make everything not kid-friendly,” he says. 

Steve Locke
Untitled (GOD IS LOVE/ you little faggot), 2018,
jacquard tapestry in cotton and rayon

Each piece involves some amount of risk, and a quick glance at the art reveals nothing that viewers will find boring: erotic paintings of the Popeye cartoon character Bluto, ceramic sculptures of people taking nude photos, dildos inscribed with messages, childhood photos with competing phrases from religion and sexuality, images of Elizabeth Taylor being beaten or screaming vulgarities, depictions of people taking Truvada (or is it birth control?).

The artists behind these conversation-starter works are Kathe Burkhart, Max Colby, Jayne County, Thedra Cullar-Ledford, Alton DeLaney, Skylar Fein, Mark Flood, Erik Hanson, Wes Holloway, Dylan Hurwitz, Scooter LaForge, Steve Locke, Colin Radcliffe, Annie Sprinkle, and Beth Stephens.

Dylan Hurwitz
the pill (Truvada), 2019, oil on canvas

Arning says the exhibit is his response to today’s climate of what he feels is too much self-censoring. He predicts that every piece in the show will offend at least one person.

“It’s definitely reflecting what I see as life today. I do think it is deliberately out of sync with the type of censorship that is occurring in schools [that avoid] teaching material or novels that have disturbing verbiage. It’s a fear of upsetting people. But culture doesn’t move forward if you don’t disturb anyone,” Arning explains.

Throughout the exhibit’s run, special events are planned as a continuation of the theme. Highlights include a film about eco-sexualism titled Water Gets Us Wet, a gay-shame parade, and a shock-comedy entertainer.

If, perchance, you want to buy any of the art, pieces are available for purchase. Prices range from $200 to $40,000.

What: No Trigger Warnings art exhibit
When: Oct. 9–28, 12–6 p.m. Thur.–Sun. Opening reception Oct. 9, 6–9 p.m.
Where: Flatland Gallery

This article appears in the October 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.


Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.
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