Where penises blossom and unfold like rose petals from a bud of tile and thread, there is the garden of homosexuality, not too far from the conceptual Garden of Eden. Richard Helbin’s show fun for kids – fun for parents brings together elements of subtlety to create an exhibition that is loud, rich and integrated, firmly placing homosexuality into the roots of humanity.
Homosexuality’s mundane, gentle, difficult, grimy, complex, and everything in between, facets sprout from the Helbin’s seeds of cross-cultural, cross-temporal images. Like the most simplistic element of life, the love and loss presented is rooted in our nature, and integral to our societal fabric, no matter nation or epoch. Using varied mediums and calling upon multiple symbolic and iconic details from religion and traditional polish embroidery to contemporary tattoo parlor displays, Helbin brings together disparate environments under the shade of love and heartbreak, nodding to the circumferential essentiality of the nature of homosexuality.
A centerpiece of large white kitchen tiles are embedded and baked with beautiful blue images of bones, plants, roots and animals; both the metaphorical and literal basic structure of life play off of each other in a reinvented triptych of theological undertones. The stripped down simplicity of existence of the skeleton and flora and fauna construct a genesis on the first part and continues onto the second panel to blend the body, notably the heart, and the nature. In the final panel we face symbols of stereotypical masculinity in feral and phallic icons of snakes and tigers. The snakes' lack of heads plays beautifully on the German word ‘Schwanz’ meaning both 'penis' and 'tail'. With the images placed on three panels like the father, son, and the Holy Ghost, our snakes evoke the idea of carnal sin, a new original sin. What is so natural, so innate, so simple, is warped into something unnatural with the influence of religious doctrine. But with the primary panel displaying a skeleton and rooted plants, the last panel serves as a bookend with the nature of love in the middle. Across the back of the panels blooms a garden of machine stitched penises - a hidden background of truth to be found if sought.
Both this naturalness and the sanctimonious influence can be found thread through the fabric of humanity. Helbin exemplifies this with his images of a prosaic life of a gay couple, with a dog and a home with a picket fence embroidered over a traditional polish blanket depicting an innocent relationship between a man and a woman. The starkly juxtaposed versions of love and commonality display a coterminous existence, separated by little more than genitalia.
Across Helbin’s other weavings, both machine and handmade, the elements of romantic and sexual life are displayed openly and honestly. An element of plant life, of nature is strongly entrenched across the exhibition - a representation of primacy that is intertwined with the manufactured primacy of religion offers a platform for critical perception of widespread axioms. Connecting qualia and society, Richard Helbin and fun for kids – fun for parents presents both the reality of homosexuality’s normalcy and its battles with beautiful candor.