At the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM), “Camp Fires” is not that scouting group for girls, but a campy take on fired ceramic art by three Canadian artists: Leopold L. Foulem, Paul Matthieu, and Richard Milette. The show’s equally clever subtitle, “Queer Baroque,” reflects the way these three gay artists have combined the artifice and exaggeration of “camp” with those same qualities in the art style known as Baroque (which unlike “camp” was associated with heterosexuality).
These ceramic sculptures are rich in humor and irreverence, perhaps most of all in Foulem’s Urinoir where a miniature baptismal fount holds a golden phallus which erupts in a shower of white beads. More serious pieces comment on religious hypocrisy such as the sexual abuse by Catholic priests. There are also plenty of phalluses–as teapots and bicycle seats.
Classical references occur as well, such as in the many Grecian urns to which Millete has given a decidedly non-classic treatment, covering them with words such as “seduction” and “sacrifice,” or replacing their Grecian designs with gaudy swatches of color and chipped out holes. In his “Cute Boys” series, Matthieu makes sculptures with likenesses of gay icons such as Rimbaud and Alice B. Toklas mounted on classic Greek heads.
Not for prudes or others lacking a sense of humor, “Camp Fires” continues through Valentine’s Day.