Yes, pants are allowed.
That news comes as a great relief to one first-time No Pants Thursdays attendee, who peeks into the Voodoo Leatherworks Gallery space before half-jokingly asking, "Can I keep my pants on?"
You can understand the uncertainty, as few people have attended an art workshop in an art gallery that doubles as a private fetish club. But it's pretty simple: No Pants sketch and photography workshops simply present male and female fetish models in place of the classic nude model.
Walking into the Gallery from the adjoining Royale Tea House, you see a space peppered with locally crafted fetish furniture and adorned with photography, drawings and watercolors with fetish, steampunk and Goth themes, all created by local artists. Host and gallery owner Paul Ulmer says he wants to give exposure to those artists and to foster artistic development among others interested in this subject matter.
"The idea is that we bring in a talented artist or multiple talented professional artists who feel comfortable facilitating an art group," says Ulmer, an art student turned military man and gallery owner. "What they are doing is providing expert guidance for people who are having difficulty in creating what it is they are trying to create."
The gallery has two upcoming No Pants events: this week's Sketch Night! led by artist Alaura Zortman of Ethereal Inspirations, and June 27's Photography Night! with photo instruction from Anthony Graham of Broken Glass Photography.
Graham primarily focuses on portraiture, but he's photographed for Peaks and Pasties and fetish balls. "[Fetish photography has a] different aesthetic and feel," he says, "but a good portrait is going to have the same characteristics as a fetish portrait."
The aesthetic crawled into Internet message boards and chat rooms in the early '90s, and grew as bands like Nine Inch Nails and pop stars like Madonna, Christina Aguilera and Rihanna co-opted fetish looks for music videos. Then, of course, there was 50 Shades of Grey.
But even today, many still don't want to be publicly identified with it for fear of losing their jobs, Ulmer says. No Pants Thursday provides a safe place for them to talk art and fetish among the like-minded.
At the May 23 photography night, Graham poses model Pearl Derriere — dressed in sexy-librarian garb, hair pulled back tight — and asks her to hold a teacup a certain way while flashing a stern look. While asking Gina, another model, to stretch her knee-high, latex-boot-clad leg out to emphasize it in a low-angle shot, another photographer explains his lighting setup. "I have one light transmitting, and the other's on slave — like that term?"
About a dozen people attend this session, but Ulmer hopes to spread the word among Colorado Springs' fetish community, which he estimates at about 2,000 people. In the future, he'd like to increase the number of artists displaying work at the gallery as well as expand its studio use.
As for No Pants Thursdays specifically, Ulmer hopes he can expand to include media like watercolor, painting or even clay. He also wants to showcase models of a wide range of gender, age and body types. He's excited that some transgender models have expressed interest in participating.
"There's so much progress going on in the community, whether you are talking about gay marriage or acceptance of different people for their chosen lifestyle or identity," he says. "I don't see why we can't capture that though art. I think that would be a positive step forward."