Artist Heidi Rider performs at the 12 Inches of Sin Festival, photo by Krystal Ramirez

Everything Is Erotic at 12 Inches of Sin

Titillation is a pillar of Las Vegas culture and hardly elicits a raised eyebrow throughout the Valley, but the annual 12 Inches of Sin isn’t about attempting to incite basic desires. Well, not exclusively. With a doctorate in human sexuality and a PhD in erotology from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, Dr. Laura Henkel’s festival—now in it’s seventh consecutive year—is equal parts erotic art exhibition, informational sex seminar and AIDS benefit. The two-day event, which was held May 11 and 12 at Commercial Center, canvases the topic of sexuality through a variety of genres and, most importantly, presents inclusive viewpoints for the under-represented and underserved in our community.

Photos by Jennifer Henry

8-ft tall plush penis sculpture and wall hung vulva artwork by Kari Cadenhead

Even worms got a lesson in the birds and bees during Las Vegas artist Mary Sabo’s participatory performance piece as volunteers took a seatin her crimson-lit sound booth to read erotic short fiction to a dirt and earthworm-filled terrarium. Artist Kari Cadenhead brought her 8-foot-tall plush penis sculpture and wall hung vulva themed fabric work from Tucson, Arizona. Traditional imagery of nude women lounging seductively is Utah-based painter Eric Wallis’ chosen subject matter. It was a common theme at the event, with Stevo from Phoenix, Arizona live painting his rendition of the feminine nude in bold black and white, Los Angeles art world rabble rouser Eric Minh Swenson’s annual “Nude Survey” (an ever-evolving catalog of his fellow artists sans clothing) in silver prints and Las Vegas sculptor Ruel James’ monochrome statuettes featuring limber ladies in a variety of athletic and alluring poses.

Some exhibits had a subtler approach however. UNLV MFA student Holly Lay’s Flesh Diamonds was an immersive installation featuring projections of her GIF-based video works—dreamlike glitches of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” as performed by the classic Hollywood star herself and various iterations portrayed throughout the decades by Blake Lively, Madonna and Kylie Minogue. Simultaneously a nod to the past and a vision of the future, Lay’s work shows how the constant reinterpretation of this cinematic moment highlights the individual performer’s personality while at the same time, linking them to the shared historical dialog of the beautiful blonde in hot pink satin, dripping with diamonds.

Artist Aaron Sheppard by Krystal Ramirez

Las Vegas artists Brent Holmes and Karla Lagunas turned a shopping cart full of pink grapefruit and tandem toga costume into a geopolitical statement on colonialism with their performance work “Pamplemousse.” The main stage was host to scholarly talks with socially relevant themes such as Queer 2.0 and #StopLabelingBabies: Sex/Gender Diversity in a Post-Marriage Equality World, along with burlesque acts of all descriptions with notoriously nude L.A.-based artist Aaron Sheppard unabashedly baring it all.

Sin City Sisters

Sex education was a central theme in Marshall Bradford’s Shibari 101 (Japanese rope tying) and BDSM 101 hosted by the Leather Uniform Club of Las Vegas. And of course, the saints of safe sex—our very own Sin City Sisters—donned colorful drag to share the message of responsible play practices for all proclivities. With donations from attendees, they help those among us who are living with HIV and AIDS connect with the resources needed to survive and thrive.

With more than 75 exhibiting artists and a diverse roster of education and entertainment offerings, Henkel prides herself on a censorship-free environment where eroticism isn’t held apart from other subject matters. Henkel imparts, “Adolf Loos stated, ‘all art is erotic’ in Ornament and Crime, and I couldn’t agree more.”

Vegas Seven