Sexuality gets juxtaposed with gallery art in ‘Sexxx Dreams’

By : Zach Caruso
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What is Sexxx Dreams? That seems to be the question around Tampa Bay. Organizers are tight-lipped and most just know it’s a performance art event dubbed an ‘immersive experience and exhibition. It all happens March 28 and 29 at the Station Number Three Art Gallery in downtown St. Petersburg.

However, the finer details which remain a mystery weren’t planned to be presented that way.

“We had the same problem trying to explain it to people because of how expansive it is,” says co-creator and performer Zachary Hines. “We are turning it into a pop-up cabaret club, and inside we have over 40 visual artists’ artwork on the walls, we have a create-your-own-adventure dance theater piece. They’re basically the ‘creatures of the club’ and they’ll be doing spontaneous dance pieces, and you can follow them throughout the evening to learn more about their narrative and their story and get the voyeuristic experience.

“Outside we’ll have food trucks, our main-stage tent which is where Coco and Homo are hosting their cabaret which will have burlesque, sword-swallowing, nail-bed performers, fire eaters, and that kind of fun fringy side-show atmosphere.”

In other words, expect the unexpected.

“I think this is going to set the tone for a new way of thinking creatively and exploring how to bring other aspects of our creative environment together,” says co-creator and performer Colleen Cherry.

Together, Cherry and Hines are better known as Coco and Homo, respectively. A farcical pair of characters have performed in the Tampa Bay area for several years, even winning a Best Of The Bay award from Creative Loafing for their first cabaret Coco and Homo’s Super Fierce Slumber Party.

“Coco and Homo are kind of these trash-tastic clowns who think very highly of themselves and think they are far more important than they are,” says Hines with a laugh.

“That’s part of their comedy, and they’re very much cutie-pie miscreants.”
The pair are joined by friend, artist, and frequent collaborator Laura Spencer, who is a co-creator and visual arts curator for the event.

“We’ve been collaborating for many years together,” says Spencer. “With Zach and Colleen performing as Coco and Homo doing small cabarets, and I’d be onstage with them live-painting and things like that.”

But Sexxx Dreams is different. It’s more comprehensive, and seeks to push the envelope. The trio was ready to push themselves to the next level, and after some late night discussions, they put their heads together and came up with a plan.

“We sat down and brainstormed for this event, and as we kept talking and developing ideas, it just grew and grew into this monster,” says Spencer. “We’ve made some deep connections in Tampa Bay, specifically in the theater and dance communities, and for me I work at a local art supply store in town and so I’m connected with artists and galleries, and with all that backing us it seemed like an inevitable conclusion to develop an event like this.”

The timing and location seemed right.

“What we picked up on was the strength of the art community in this area and how diverse it is,” says Cherry. “It excited us that such a variety of art forms can come together and create that singular experience for the viewer. The visual art is affected by the performance, and the performance is affected by the visuals, so it becomes a cohesive thing. The hot thing in St Pete right now seems to be these big art parties, so we said ‘Let’s throw one,’ and took it to the next level and made it a more immersive experience. We wanted to introduce audiences from different mediums to each other.”

Hines, Cherry, and Spencer were drawn to the idea of taking a subject like sexuality and juxtaposing it with a formal gallery setting.

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I think sexuality is something that really excites the creative mind, and it’s not readily available or accepted in a gallery setting,” says Spencer. “We want to elevate that low-brow idea into a high-brow gallery experience, so you almost feel like you’re walking into more of a museum, there’s something more refined about it. Sexuality seems to be shoved down our throats in our culture today, but there is still an element of taboo to it. We’re giving people a place to feel free with their sexuality. We want to open peoples’ eyes and minds and make them see that sex is ok, it’s something beautiful that we all experience.”

So the theme of Sexxx Dreams, according to Cherry, is “voyeurism.”

“It’s really kind of testing what your comfort level is, where is the boundary?” Cherry says. “What is too far, for you personally? We have one-on-one performances, guests can touch props, and it’s all about how much more can you see through the keyhole?”
The trio admits that the experience of planning and committing to such an event brought with it a degree of fear and anxiety, but that just meant they were on the right track.

“We don’t do anything that doesn’t scare us at least a little,” says Hines. “It scares me a lot, it’s a huge risk to put on such a large event, but I think it’s the perfect next step. That’s the idea, keep pushing yourself, keep taking risks.”

Spencer agrees.
“Needless to say after this, I might be writing children’s books under a pseudonym,” adds Spencer with a laugh. “You think about that, about how will doing an event like this reflect on your name, and how will your personal body of work be viewed in relation to it. We’ve reached an era though where if you don’t have a large body of work behind you and you can’t touch on all these different things, then really as an artist you’re playing it safe.”

And as excited as Hines, Cherry, and Spencer are for Sexxx Dreams to debut, they insist there is plenty more where this came from.

“I’m guilty of always thinking ahead, but we definitely have some plans for the future,” says Hines. “This is really just the beginning for us, it’s the tip of the iceberg.”

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