Love languages

Jessica Caldas and Maggie Benoit curated a show to get Atlantans talking about hard, important issues

Language helps ambitious ideas take shape, graduating an amorphous (albeit honorable) concept into a realistic goal. Artist Jessica Caldas still doesn't like calling her upcoming series, Love/d & Sex/ed, a "conversation," though the word keeps coming up. "Honestly, that's a pretty broad term," Caldas says. The series, slated to stretch over the course of four scattered weekends at the Mammal Gallery, includes dozens of panels, performances, workshops, and more from an equal number of presenters to dissect a broad spectrum of issues dealing with sex, love, and the body. Despite the language limitation of calling the show a conversation, it remains the goal: to get Atlantans talking about what may be uncomfortable, important topics through an array of mediums.

"To me, the whole idea of the show is that you can have a conversation about any of these things and meander into the next topic without even thinking about it," Caldas says. The artist has a long history of advocacy under her belt tackling women's issues, primarily domestic violence, including October's #3everyday project. "Whether that's talking about sex and then talking about trauma or consent or language, and then talking about policy," she adds, noting her recent eight-hour stint lobbying for Georgia's rape kit bill and its successful pass. "That's a conversation that could happen in one sitting, and they're all related. That's kind of the whole point of the show."

Caldas isn't tackling this huge undertaking alone. Fellow ATL mover/shaker Maggie Benoit, after participating and feeling inspired by #3everyday, signed on to help with curating and administrative elements, among other contributions. Despite her enthusiasm and passion for the project, Benoit — like Caldas — anticipates difficulties through Love/d & Sex/ed's run. "I think it's hard for any of us to get vulnerable," Benoit told CL over email. "And regardless of how comfortable an individual feels with their body, with sex, with love; it's still a vulnerable space. Vulnerability can mean power. Vulnerability can also mean fear. That spectrum is what makes the conversation challenging."

Billed components for the show include immersive theater from educational group Hu-MAN Up, panels dedicated to untangling the complex relationship of religion and sexuality, and the debut of Caldas' new art installation. With so much variation in format and subject matter, Caldas says she hopes the crowd deviates from the usual "Atlanta art scene," noting the entire run will be free and open to the public. "Honestly, if it's like five people show up to one of the workshops, great," she says. "These are hard conversations to have in a lot of ways ... I think it's really going to be nice if people show up, engage, and feel good about being there and having the experience."