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Philip Hitchcock blends the mythological with the erotic
by Steven Chaitman

This article shared 9474 times since Wed Jan 25, 2012
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Sculptor Philip Hitchcock will be merging the worlds of mythology, realism and eroticism in a new exhibition entitled "Of Myth and Mortals," which opens at the Leather Archives & Museum, 6418 N. Greenview Ave., on Friday, Jan. 27.

Hitchcock has developed a national reputation for combining fantasy with photo-realism using a technique call "lifecasting" or "bodycasting," which involves working with real-life models to create molds that act as the basis for the sculpture.

A graduate of UCLA, Hitchcock spent more than 20 years making a name for himself out in California, including the publishing of his first book, Dark Impressions: The Art of Philip Hitchcock. In 2005, he returned to his hometown of St. Louis, Mo., and opened his own gallery in 2007.

The return to the Midwest has not been without its challenges. The last few years have involved a lot of reflection and a re-dedication to his craft.

"Moving back to the "Medieval West" was really an eye-opener for me because I didn't really change who I am in order to be here," Hitchcock said.

Soon after returning to St. Louis, Hitchcock sculpted a redux of Michelangelo's famous "Creation of Adam" from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for an exhibition in St. Charles, Mo. The piece involved two life-size sculptures, one of which was, of course, a nude Adam. The organizers of the exhibition perceived it would be controversial and tried to cover the statue with a tablecloth and then foliage before placing a mobile wall in front of the sculpture.

" [ The wall ] had the opposite effect; it kind of forced you into a force-up view of this penis which was lovingly and graphically depicted but not the centerpiece of the sculpture by any means," Hitchcock said.

Before long, the sculpture made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and put Hitchcock at the center of a mild controversy.

"In my career there have been times when I've spoiled a little controversy," he said. "This wasn't one of them. This to me was church art, it was very benign and familiar and suddenly it turned into this controversy, kind of a welcome back [ to the Midwest ] ."

At the same time, Hitchcock's work has also been welcomed in St. Louis. He was commissioned by St. Louis University to do a life-sized Christ for its art-museum collection. That turned into the piece "Christ Embracing the Cross."

The Midwest homecoming has caused Hitchcock to question his work and career choices, but with the purpose of affirming his passion for both.

"It was somewhat jarring to come back to the scene of the crime as it were in St. Louis and seeing peers from my high school days and where they are in their lives," he said. "The temptation, of course, is to compare it with where I am in my mind. Although I have all this freedom and critical success and avant-garde edginess, I don't quite have the 401K or the retirement fund or any of that. It's interesting. I wouldn't do it any differently."

Hitchcock is aware that the eroticism present in much of his work poses certain challenges as an artist, but he's intent on changing perceptions of male portrayals in art and culture.

"The minute you put a penis on the piece, an exposed penis—God forbid it's erect—you've limited your audience and you've limited your commercial viability," he said.

One particular piece that will be displayed in the Leather Archives exhibition is "The Birth of Cernunnos." Known as the Celtic god of fertility, Cernunnos is often depicted with an erection.

"This is a culture [ today ] where sexuality and, God forbid, male-on-male sexuality is not talked about a lot," Hitchcock said. "People don't want to think about it, they don't want to discuss it and the last thing they want is their kids to see it. To me it feels like there's a real need for this. It's important to stay with ideas and images that challenge and cause people to think and re-evaluate what their ideas are."

Mythology has long been a source of inspiration for Hitchcock. He said we revisit it so often because it's "archetypal and raw" with themes of lust, envy, greed, revenge and sex.

For a long time, Hitchcock said he never realized how graphic some myths were, such as the story of the birth of the Minotaur, in which the wife of King Minos becomes infatuated with Poseidon's bull and has an architect design her a contraption that will allow her to seduce it. She then becomes pregnant by the bull and gives birth to the Minotaur.

Hitchcock noted that those who first depicted these stories gave the gods, monsters and heroes very human characteristics, so myth has always been a fitting realm for his ongoing fascination with and exploration of the human form.

"So much of what's going on in the art world is about conceptual pieces and abstraction and sometimes the more literal arts are not as highly regarded," Hitchcock said. "Then if you add this extra layer of eroticism, often been described as the bastard child of the legitimate art world, it makes for an interesting mix, but nevertheless that's the path I chose."

"Of Myth and Mortals" will be Hitchcock's first show in Chicago. He's particularly excited to have it at the Leather Archives & Museum, because, he said, members of the leather subculture are among those who understand his work best.

"The leather community is a place where eroticism is not just acknowledged but celebrated, out in the open and discussed," he said.

The show will feature Hitchcock's classical and erotic work. Blow-up prints from his "Dark Impressions" book will offered as a more affordable alternative.

To learn more about Hitchcock and view photographs of his work, visit .

To find out more about "Of Myth and Mortals"—which runs through June 30—visit . The opening reception is Friday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m.

Huge 'Morbid Curiosity' exhibit at Cultural Center

One of the Chicago Cultural Center's largest exhibitions to date, "Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection," runs through July 8.

"Morbid Curiosity" showcases the eclectic selection of nearly 1,000 works of fine art, artifacts, massive installations and decorative objects. Harris, a resident of Riverwoods, Ill., has been an art collector for four decades.

The two major components of this exhibition are the "War Room," highlighting the atrocities of war in notable works from the 17th century to present day in the 4th floor Exhibit Hall; and the "Kunstkammer of Death," a modern-day "cabinet of curiosities" housed in the Sidney R. Yates Gallery, featuring a wide-ranging survey of mortality across cultures and spiritual traditions.

Additional highlights include works by artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Jasper Johns and Rembrandt; ethnographic artifacts; and a 13-foot-high chandelier made of 3,000 handcrafted plastic bones.

There will be a public reception Friday, Jan. 27, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the center, 78 E. Washington St.

Visit .

This article shared 9474 times since Wed Jan 25, 2012
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