Tiberio Simone’s La Figa: Visions of Food and Form: Live!

Dear Diary: Last night I went to an art show. I had an adult beverage there. I mingled with folks from the neighborhood. I ate a cucumber slice off of someone’s booty!

A sampling of Simone’s edible art.

The art show in question took place at Capitol Hill’s Vermillion gallery; the art being a live enactment of Tiberio Simone’s work: food placed artistically on the human body. “Oh I know Tiberio,” a friend said when I told her I’d be taking a date to the event. She had gone to a “sensual food party” he hosted once. “You’ll have fun,” she winked.

I had never heard of Simone, a former Italian Special Forces paratrooper, James Beard Award-winning chef and “pleasure activist” who, according to the press releases, moved to Seattle for love. Love was definitely in the air at Vermillion. Packed from opening ‘til the witching hour, the space became a stage for Simone’s fresh-food body mods, and the “art show” became a sex-positive party. (While in the ladies’ room, I received an invite to a saucy social networking site from an acquaintance.)

A large banner above Simone’s work station featured a reclining nude covered in cucumbers. “That must feel good,” I said, thinking about the last time I put them on my eyelids. The man next to me laughed. “You’re the first person with that reaction,” he said.

So picture this: Two beautiful women are prone on a raised platform. One is on her back and the other is on top of her, resting her chin on her hands at the lower woman’s stomach. The woman on top is wearing only her undies and her friend’s nipples are already covered with a pair of beets (modesty first!). Simone spends a good hour tracing their curves and creating tattoo-like patterns with thinly-shaved rounds of cucumber and slivers of mango. “I wonder what they’re thinking about,” said my bewildered date.

Some of the flourishes are truly lovely, such as paper-thin wisps of vegetable decorating an arm like a knight’s armor or a Koi pattern, flaring out to create fantasy-like claws. A single beet slice placed like a bindi on a forehead, however, struck me as goofy and overly literal. Has no one seen 9 ½ Weeks?

“Tiberio says over and over again about how he wants to help Americans get rid of their taboo and fear of ‘food, nudity and sex’,” says Vermillion’s Diane Duthweiler.

I have to say that the crowd of incidental voyeurs gathered at her gallery was definitely more interested in the art on display than any I’ve seen in Seattle. Simone has done this before at events like the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival, but I’m glad to see a little of that playfulness cross over into an increasingly mainstream venue. The live-action aspect sparked plenty of good-natured conversations among strangers. A snack table was staffed by women happy to feed you candied grapefruit or a macaroon dipped in a devilishly thick wine sauce.

This job sucks: Simone and delicious models at the Fremont Fair.

And suddenly, it was done. Simone—now shirtless and being groped by another beautiful woman—gave some signal, and the crowd began to destroy his art. When I realized what was happening, I joined in. Then slightly embarrassed, my date and I fled. He revealed to me later that he’d gone in for seconds.

Simone and photographer Matt Freedman are celebrating the release of their book La Figa: Visions of Food and Form. “Almost edible” photos are accompanied by recipes and advice on food-based seduction. Tom Douglas is a fan.