The first thing that jumps into my mind when the term "erotic art" comes up is of some naked freak covered in paint, slapping his bare-assed body against a canvas--that and just about every Calvin Klein advertisement for Obsession cologne I''ve ever seen.

Having once been a conservative and moral man, I pushed the entire idea of erotic sexual themes in art as far away from my consciousness as possible. I have been, of course, corrupted somewhere along the line and my moral fabric is constantly being stretched to the bare thread.

My first experience with erotic art was in the summer of 1994. I was 18 and wandering through Amsterdam on my way south from a trip to Denmark. I had seen the old Viking ships at one museum and a display of Moog synthesizers at another. Nothing, however, prepared me for the sight of the large white erect phallus then sitting outside of the Dutch city''s World Museum of Erotic Art.

Inside were paintings and scrolls dating as far back as the 16th century, the total of which made it clear to me that artful expression of humankind''s fascination with sexuality was not a new subject.

Now, years later, the world of eros comes to the Monterey Fairgrounds this Saturday in the guise of the 7th annual Erotic Art Show. Having never been to one of the earlier shows, I had an itch to know what to expect.

"Some people are dressed to ''the nines,'' others just come casually to look at the art," says Susan Collins, a coordinator for the traveling road show. "This is definitely for the over-21 crowd, definitely not for children."

The show will set up shop smack in the middle of the Turf Club, a medium-sized building tucked just inside the fairgrounds gate. Every year, sculptures and beautiful black and white photographs crowd the interior.

"We don''t censor the work that comes in, so it''s pretty diverse," Collins says.

When pressed on the issue of strange submissions, Collins recalls some Jell-O molds a couple made of their...well, use your imagination.

Most work, however, is of the caliber of Richard Stodart''s painting Unbound. This sensual piece of art was used as the cover to the book The Tao of Sex, a guide to heightened lovemaking pleasure. Fewer than 300 prints of this cherished piece of erotic art were struck, and one of them will be on exhibit at this year''s Erotic Art Show.

What happens every year is that each and every person who attends receives a ballot. The smiling guests then walk around and rate each piece on its sexuality quotient. At the end of the night, winners of the popular vote receive prizes while the crowd is the recipient of live entertainment--including bellydancer Sara Rowe.

My research led me to the Internet to educate myself a little more on the subject of erotic art. I found two very sweet and passionate contacts at the very first Web site I visited, EroticArt.com (www.eroticart.com). Karel Van Haeften and Terry Arellano are private dealers out of San Mateo who have extensive connections and knowledge about erotic art throughout the world. They are trusted appraisers and among the most professional art dealers--erotic art or not--I have met.

About 20 years ago, Van Haeften sailed to Hawaii and while there picked up a brass piece of erotically sculpted art. The idea flashed of traveling the globe in search of more such works. Now the Van Haeften/Arellano duo are recognized as the authorities on erotic art.

Arellano and Karel Van Haeften will bring some of their favorite pieces to the fairgrounds on Saturday. It will be an opportunity to see just how arousing art can be and just how great it is that our own local artists can create erotic art with the rest of the world.

The 7th Annual Erotic Art Show takes place at the Monterey Fairgrounds'' Turf Club beginning at 7pm on Saturday. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $12 at the door. For submission and ticket info, call Brad Mallory at 899-1007.
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