WICKER PARK — When Cathy Oblak opened an email submission for the upcoming art exhibit "Sex Sells," she was shocked to find a 30-by-40-inch painting of a penis, complete with cartoon faces.
"I opened up my email, and there was this giant penis," the newly hired assistant gallery director said, who added that she's had a hard time erasing some of the more "aggressive" submissions from her mind.
"It made me laugh," Oblak said. "Art can do that."
That's the idea behind the Jackson Junge Gallery's upcoming exhibition, which has received more than 130 submissions for the group show, said curator Chris Jackson, who put out an open call for artwork.
"It's been a tremendous response, you can only imagine," said Jackson, who owns the Wicker Park gallery at 1389 N. Milwaukee Ave. with his wife, artist Laura Lee Junge.
Home to numerous group shows since opening three years ago, the gallery has tackled such topics as the four elements, the 2011 mayoral election and, most recently, the "End of the World," an apocalypse-inspired show.
The business of sex is far from a new concept, but Jackson said the gallery wants to incorporate the role sex plays in American culture.
"Our purpose is to take a close look on the role that sex plays in our society, through advertising, sexting and social media," Jackson said. "Whether you want to think about it or not, sex is there at the forefront of our society, it's in our face every single day."
According to Jackson, the gallery so far has had "more submissions for this show than we've gotten in past."
In addition to literal interpretations of "sex sells," Oblak said there have been many abstract pieces submitted for consideration that play with color and form, which are related to sex but don't depict it.
"One cool standout is a reversal photograph that looks like a negative and is a silhouette of a woman with a hint of blue and black outlining her," Oblak said.
Artists are invited to submit their "Sex Sells" work through Feb. 25.
A blind jury will select 35 to 45 pieces for inclusion in "Sex Sells," which kicks off with a free public reception March 14.
On Friday, the gallery will host a solo artist show, "Icons, Myths and Poems," featuring the work of James McNeill Mesple, who draws his inspiration from mythical and religious icons.