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12 Inches of Sin festival brings the sexy art back

Throughout history, human sexuality been legislated, celebrated, explored, vilified, and censored, often reined in (or promoted) according to religions, societies, and governments that set the moral codes, whether universally accepted or not. It's multilayered and complex.

But for curator Laura Henkel, who’s made a career of studying and portraying human sexuality and its various facets, it’s a fundamental human desire to be embraced and celebrated. 

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Her three-day 12 Inches of Sin V1 art festival at New Orleans Square (formerly Commercial Center) brings in more than 100 artists from around the world who explore the terrain of human sexuality through visual and performance art, burlesque, music, talks, and workshops.

It's an exponential growth from the exhibit's first launch at Henkel's former Sin City Gallery in 2011, when she had 35 entries by artists creating works 12 inches in size (appropriate to the gallery's small space in the Arts Factory.) The show has since drawn thousands of entries from artists around the world creating subtle and wildly provocative works in various media that blend the serious, humorous, and playful.

“It’s got its legs,” Henkel says. “It’s resonating with people.”

This year’s event, benefiting the nonprofit group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, opens tomorrow, July 21, with multiple exhibits and installations and musical performances; it continues through Sunday in 72,000 square feet of space at New Orleans Square on Sahara Avenue. 

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Participating Las Vegas artists include Chris Bauder, Steward Freshwater, Lolita Develay, Kim Johnson, Nancy Good, Brent Holmes (a Desert Companion designer), Jesse Smigel, Jim White, Nanda Sharifpour, Ali Fathollahi, Omayra Amador, and Curtis Walker.

Henkel, former curator of the Erotic Heritage Museum, who has long been a supporter of sensual and erotic art, says 12 Inches continues its unwavering message: “We are who were are and we should enjoy who we are.”

The limits? “Respect, responsibility and consensual behavior,” she states. Other than that, almost anything goes.


12 Inches of Sin V1

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July 21-23, New Orleans Square, 900 Karen Street, $20,


(Images: top, Daniel Miller; bottom, Aaron Sheppard, photographed by Mikayla Whitmore)

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