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Exhibits on Africa, female sexuality impress

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Jessica Warden
Staff Writer

University of La Verne students can get a taste of Africa and the female orgasm at two very different art exhibits, the “Africa in Images and Proverbs,” displayed at ULV’s Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography, and “Morgasm,” the Museum of Radical Gender and Sex Matrix located at ULV’s Harris Gallery.

“Africa in Images and Proverbs,” is a moving collection of photos assembled by photographer Betty Press that focus on proverbs in African society throughout East and West Africa.

For centuries, proverbs have played an important role in African culture as far as setting the standard for behavior and lifestyle for other society members. These black and white images seem to capture the heart and soul of their culture.

One piece in particular, “Verily, beauty is power” stood out from the rest for Gary Colby, professor of photography.

“Verily, beauty is power” which is an African proverb, is a photo of three young African women dressed in traditional costumes taken at an assembly at John F Kennedy Lycee High School in Dakar, Senegal. The assembly was to mark the 25th anniversary of President Kennedy’s death.

The school ran a program that celebrated Kennedy’s ideals.

“I love the surface quality of this print for the skin tones,” Colby said. “These women are just gorgeous and it struck me that they’re also quite alive. There’s a good deal of fashion here, body awareness and comfortableness with each other.”

Since its premier at ULV, “Africa in Images” has received positive feedback from students.

“I liked it,” said Erica Holmes, a sophomore psychology major. “ULV should do this for every culture. We need to really promote these kinds of exhibits more so more students will check them out.”

Press is best known for her freelance photography assignments taken in Africa from 1987-1995 for such prestigious publications as “Newsweek,” “The New York Times” and for the UN organization UNICEF. While working with UNICEF, she had the honor to photograph actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn on a trip to Somalia in 1992. Press studied photography at the University of Michigan School of Art and is a professor of photography at the University of Southern Mississippi.

“Africa in Images and Proverbs” is being exhibited at ULV through May 6.

“Morgasm: The Big O Collection,” organized by Chief Curator Marie Cartier, explores the power of sex and the female orgasm. The exhibit features a collection of over 100 artifacts donated by women from all walks of life from all over the world. There is a story behind every artifact and each artifact played a significant role in the story as well as helped the donator climax.

For example, a Los Angeles bartender who worked at a lesbian club submitted a black torn couch cushion. The cushion was part of a couch in the club. She explains that she witnessed probably more than 1000 women come on that couch cushion.

In addition to the provocative subject matter of the exhibit, visually “Morgasm” is sure to make a few jaws drop. Adorned as an archway at the entrance of the exhibit is a long string of lights hung in the shape of a woman’s genitalia. The G-spot, which was represented in the center of the gallery, was also included. Surrounding the G-spot were seven circles, each circle signifying one of the seven charkas in the body and seven donated artifacts are suspended from each charka.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Angelica Marin, a senior liberal studies major. “I never thought that they would put something like this on campus.”

Marin, who is currently taking a sex and gender issues course, believes that women viewers would benefit the most from “Morgasm.”

“Women in general are so closed minded and they don’t like to talk about sex, they don’t like to hear it and see it. To put it out there for them like this is a big step,” Marin said.

According to a report by “Newsweek,” 44 percent of all America women have a low sex-drive and/or don’t experience orgasm. “Morgasm” could help women feel more comfortable with their bodies and also help those who have trouble reaching climax find that one thing or element that will push them over the edge sort of speak because “Morgasm” has created an open platform for women to share stories and tips.

Cartier, who developed “Morgasm” five years ago, encourages visitors of the exhibit to submit their own “Big O” stories at morgasmonline.com.

The “Morgasm” exhibit is on display through April 8.

Jessica Warden can be reached at jesselw@verizon.net.

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