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Still Life with Jim O.

Cherry Trifle
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Contemplating a controversial artist’s new “toy” – and the all-important question of whether it should be placed in your bum.

  Cute Meets Confrontational

Jim O. comes in colors – lots of them. Aesthetically, I liked the brown one best; it is the only model with contrasting black hair (the rest are monochromatic save those SNL-reminiscent “Oh, noooooo!” facial features). Alas, they really mean it when they say supplies are limited. I ended up with my second choice: dark blue. I contemplated him by candlelight with some wine in an artisan-crafted glass. And as I perused Hoppek’s website and a multitude of works all at once whimsical and controversial, Jim O. and I bonded.

The German-born Hoppek was hatched as a graffiti artist about 20 years ago, but his work has evolved over time and travels to include painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation art. His signature, according to all the information available (and discerned by my own perusal of his various projects) appears to be the oval shape, often in threes, which I have come to know as my Jim O.’s endearing expression of perpetual surprise. I have taken to calling him Herr Blau as a nod to his father’s ancestral roots. And because saying things in German tends to amuse me.

Hoppek’s works, though often cartoonish, have been considered controversial – even racist. Many depict explicit sex acts and exaggerated renderings of genitalia. To be honest, the first time I saw what is called “the Obama beach ball” on Hoppek’s own site – a shiny, black-plastic inflatable with that same little Jim O. face on it – I, too, was taken aback by minstrelesque properties I failed to connect to the wondrous and vaguely smiling expression on the Jim O.

His collection of “bimbos,” handmade rag dolls of sorts, has a few stunners among them, as well. Several have helped Hoppek achieve a considerable level of fame via their animated presence in some popular European commercials for the Opel Corsa; you might find them reminiscent of the Kia Sorrento ads here in the States, where “Yo Gabba Gabba’s” own Muno goes on a Las Vegas joyride with a few of his plaything pals. (Unlike Jim O., Muno conjures an immediate and reassuring safe-for-insertion aesthetic.)

The “Michael Jackson” bimbos, for instance, get progressively lighter in shade depending on model year. And truly, what edgy German’s art collection would be complete without at least a smidge of Hitler? Hoppek’s “Adolf,” is available in both original and negative, a reverse-color dolly, each complete with a swastika-emblazoned SS armband. In the product description, Hoppek calls it, “soft and cute … the perfect cuddly toy,” He also admits it wasn’t one of his best ideas.

I will not condemn Hoppek for any of it. At this point, I’m smitten with Herr Blau. And besides, art is not merely a vehicle by which you’re meant to retreat to the comfort of the womb in the form of vacuous, giant-eyed kittens that evoke the aroma of your Gram’s toll-house cookies. Some of it should make you think. And if art is to be any kind of expression of the human experience, those thoughts should probably be ugly as often as beautiful, if not more so.

Also, some of it should definitely be painted on velvet.

  Sexed Education

I am neither art nor sex-toy expert, but I do know both are exceedingly subjective. What does very little for your cerebral G-spot may actually help you find your physical one. I also know that some people will collect anything, so it was no surprise to find many voices on discussion boards expressing a desire to add Jim O. to their ever-expanding vibe and dildo anthologies.




“I am staggeringly intrigued.”

“I want to own them all….”

A few others made racism-related observations, as well, prompting an interesting back-and-forth with references to German slang, art history and individual perception of given imagery. Atypical for a thread about dildos, I’d imagine, but there you have it. Fun Factory USA should be proud of that, I think. What probably shouldn’t have surprised me was the number of people who expressed an interest in Jim O. as a sex partner, though all seemed a little unsure of how best to deploy him to the task. By now, I felt obligated to get the answer.

“Is it a dildo?”

I pose the question again, this time in discussion with Emilie Rosanvallon, Fun Factory’s communications manager, who also informs me that James Brown was likely the artist’s inspiration for the look of the piece. “You could play with the head for sure,” she says of Jim, “but really, while it’s made of the same body-safe silicone as our sex vibes, it’s not optimally functional. It’s more of a collectible.”

And so, I have my answer.

Jim O. is art imitating life (and apparently, the late, great Godfather of Soul). I am almost relieved. I’m no prude, but I don’t want anyone subjecting Jim to the love that dare not speak its name. I have become somewhat protective of his wide-eyed little face. I imagine the muffled Mr. Bill lament, perhaps in German, as his head disappears. “Ooooh, neeeeeiiiiin!” It’s too disturbing to think about, to be honest.

“Fancy dildo,” my friend says, spotting Herr Blau on a shelf in my office. He knows I get all kinds of books and oddball goodies in my line of work. It looks a bit out of place next to the wooden boat sculpture from Indonesia, but whatever. It’s not a gallery. I make a mental note to pair him with a Kinsey bio or a Mapplethorpe collection or some gay robot vampire erotica, then sigh, gazing at my friend, who has clearly outed himself as a troglodyte.

“It’s not a dildo,” I say, with as much aristocratic preposterousness as I can muster sans powdered wig, “It’s a Hoppek.”


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