If you go

What: A Neurotic Erotic Alphabet photography exhibit by Paula Sussman

When: Through April 19

Where: McMahon Gallery at The Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

Tickets: Free

Info: thedairy.org

This art exhibit is guarded and blocked behind walls.

It's not that it's vulgar or even explicit. But implicit? Oh, yes. Erotically (but comically) so.

Some of these photos are subtle: a person in an animal costume on a shrink's couch. A woman lying in bed smoking a cigarette next to a shirtless Howdy Doody doll.

Others imply activities with props that you can find only in an adult store: Blow-up dolls jealously peeking in the window. Highly bedazzled sex toys.

Probably not things you want to explain to your kid.

But the exhibit is also likely to make the older crowd chuckle.

This R-rated exhibit is a bit edgier than usual for the family friendly Dairy Center for the Arts, but Paula Sussman, a self-taught photographer from Boulder, says it's been well received since her opening reception on March 20.

And as The Dairy puts it, "The pictures and captions, though frequently risque and over the top, do somehow retain a certain innocence and charm."

"A Neurotic Erotic Alphabet" will be on exhibit in the McMahon Gallery at The Dairy Center through April 19.

The exhibit is a series of more than 26 narrative, humorous photographs and their alliterative captions, representing the letters of the alphabet. For example, "Greased, girdled and gagged, Gilda gets the group --" er, we'll stop there.

The photos, taken with film (nothing digital or Photoshoppy here), all began as visions in Sussman's head. Over the years, she drew a storyboard, collected the props and costumes, cast the models and set up the often-elaborate scenes. By the time she clicked the camera, she sometimes needed to shoot only a few frames.

 Lydia Listens for Lurkers ...    is a part of Paula Sussman s Neurotic Erotic Alphabet, on exhibit at The Dairy Center.
Lydia Listens for Lurkers ... is a part of Paula Sussman s Neurotic Erotic Alphabet, on exhibit at The Dairy Center. (Paul Aiken/Daily Camera)

It's a far cry from modern digital photography, which relies on tons of post-production editing and often hundreds of shots to get it right.

Mary Horrocks, curator of visual arts and education, said there is something organic about this kind of art that you can't obtain when people get too "slick with our technology."

Sussman can tell a story about each photo.

She took the Howdy Doody love-scene photos to a one-hour processing lab back in the day. She says she always wondered what the workers thought when they processed that order.

Another photo, "Hooters for the Homeless," was inspired by a real event.

"I was in South Beach in Miami in the morning and nobody was on the beach, except these two good-looking young women who were topless sunbathing, and there was nobody there to appreciate them because it was so early, except for this homeless guy," Sussman said. "I thought it was pretty sad. I remembered it, and years later, I shot it for the alphabet."