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Off Limits

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Bare feet and backless blouses may be all the rage in Boulder, but that's where the flesh flashing stops. On February 4, cops shut down a fashion show after receiving an APB concerning escaped breasts on the runway.

Organized by Jason Rens and Gretchen Jones of the Buffalo Exchange, the performance-art event had been billed as a "spontaneous fashion happening" showcasing underground designs by Damaris, Satellite Boardshop and Mamma Designs. "We feel that there's a really great art scene in Boulder right now," Rens explains. "Denver's really coming up in the art world with First Friday and all that, and we just want to create that in Boulder."

They started by posing models to create a living window installation in the front of the Little Horse gallery at 1505 Pearl Street. One particularly titillating display featured dresses by Damaris Drummond with tops that could be (and were) converted into head scarves, exposing fashionista ingenuity as well as a few breasts. All nipples were still covered with a thin mesh fabric, Drummond points out, but the sight was alarming enough for one prudish passerby to alert the Boulder Police Department.

When officers showed up, they were stunned to find hundreds of college-town hipsters packed inside the storefront, with many more gawking from the sidewalk. Although fire marshals were already working with party organizers to reduce the crowd, the boys in blue immediately put an end to the fun.

While Rens admits that they were lucky no citations were issued, he and Jones are already planning more exhibitionism for Boulder. "It's a town that waves the liberal flag so loud and proud, but when it really comes down to it, they can be extremely heavy with censorship," he says. "And we're just not down with that."

Scene and herd: When an Off Limits operative ran into former state Senate president John Andrews at the Wellshire Inn recently, he confided that he always catches Savage Love, Dan Savage's sex-advice column, in this very paper. Since he was term-limited out of the Colorado Legislature last fall, Andrews can't rail about Savage Love's homo-friendly contents there; maybe he reads the column to find fresh rant material for his new Sunday-evening radio show on KNUS or his even newer Denver Post column, which is not about sex, sadly.

On the Record

Gayla Lemke would hardly consider herself anti-American. After all, the Bailey-based artist and teacher served in the United States Air Force after graduating from high school. But last week, when a single person complained about Lemke's installation in the Conversations in Clay exhibit currently showing at the Lakewood Cultural Center, three members of the Lakewood City Council called Lemke not only anti-military, but anti-American. Her piece, "Hope Stones," features small ceramic stones etched with quotations from modern and historical figures, including a comment by Bill Maher that the councilmembers found particularly vexing. As a result, Lakewood City Manager Mike Rock demanded that the piece be removed from the city building; the Maher stone recently sold for $45. Early this week, Off Limits caught up with Lemke to discuss the hazards of being an artist.

Q: You were one of the marquee names for this exhibit. How did you get involved with Conversations in Clay?

A: I was invited. I believe the gallery director did an online search for people who work narratively with clay and then invited three of us to show. Originally there were fifty of these "Hope Stones" that I showed at Edge Gallery last July. Several of those sold and generated no controversy.

Q: Would you consider yourself to be a controversial artist?

A: I don't consider myself to be a controversial artist. I make my art about things I feel strongly about. Occasionally I address a political or social issue, but I don't consider myself to be a political or social artist, although that does sometimes come through in my work.

Q: How did you select the quotes?

A: I did a search online for quotes about war and peace, and I went through and picked out different ones, some that were more extreme and some that were not so extreme. I wanted to show a broad range of things that had been said. The guy who complained originally, I don't know that he understood the concept of the piece. He was reading the one line on each particular stone, but the "Hope Stones" need to be viewed together. The whole concept was to illustrate how, throughout history, war has existed and mankind has questioned the value of it. There is still no solution; war still exists. I was trying to make people think about that, not piss them off.

Q: Will you be involved with City of Lakewood-sponsored exhibits again -- or other city-sponsored shows?

A: Probably. I think it's important for artists to put work out there in places like this so people can see different types of art. That's what the arts are about, to educate people to the wide range of art and get them to think about things. But I would want to know a little more up front about guidelines as to what's acceptable and what's not.

Q: How have you reacted personally to your piece being pulled?

A: It's made me feel a little bit nervous in some ways. I don't quite understand why people are looking at one small part of a larger piece and saying this is bad so it has to come out. That makes me feel uncomfortable, that a few people can decide what's being shown. Who decides? There will always be someone who doesn't like something.

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