The 705 Erogenous Zone
Las Vegas, NV 2017 

2,000+ sqft mural

Dr. Laura Henkel, Sin City Gallery (curation)
Alison Chambers, The 705 (building)
"Downtown" Steve Franklin, The 705 (building)
Brian "Paco" Alvarez, Zappos (materials donation)

Aaron Sheppard has a complex. Well, a few of them. But 
on this warm and breezy mid-May day, while he is in the 
beginning stages of his latest mural, The 705 Erogenous 
Zone, the artist was worried about putting his suggest-
ive work on three very public walls in a low-income, 
Latino and black community in the Cultural Corridor. 
“Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the authority to 
place this imagery in public,” he says. “Fuck, here comes 
another white boy coming to change what little we got left.
Sheppard, a painter, sculptor and performer originally 
from Nebraska who received his MFA at UNLV, is now liv-
ing in a small desert home in Joshua Tree where he says 
he lives in his “artist bubble.” Shook by the president-
ial election, Sheppard began to question the validity of 
his political and social opinions as a white male. He 
says people regularly comment on his height, or assume 
he’s in a band, a presumption that pales in comparison 
to being judged by race. “I don’t feel so secure in my 
place to address such things. And that’s something that 
I have to figure out,” he says.
And while the mural on 705  N. Las Vegas Blvd. wasn’t 
used as a soapbox, the imagery in this particular loca-
tion makes a statement on its own. His work often refer-
ences Franz von Bayros, the Austrian illustrator whose 
work depicts the white bourgeois class in decadent, 
sexual scenarios from a voyeuristic hetero male per-
spective. Sheppard changes the gender and positions of 
the subjects in his own work. What place does this 
imagery serve as a backdrop in the Cultural Corridor? 
But Sheppard was given free reign on the project and de-
spite friends advice urging him to ask for forgiveness, 
not permission, he showed some restraint.
“I can’t put big dicks on these women. I think that’s 
part of the game,” Sheppard says laughing.  “How do 
you paint these intimate, erotic, sexual images on a 
large public scale that is still provocative but not—
for lack of a better word—pornography?”
Make that dick a dragon, that’s how. The mural shows 
women flowing into one another, riding the dragon’s 
tail, which wraps around the three walls. He treated 
the project as a large canvas with organic painterly 
strokes. And although he is painting metaphorically, it 
doesn’t take away his concern that the imagery may be 
too out of place. After politely asking a passerby to 
not pee on the mural, the two got to talking. Sheppard 
asked the bystander, “Let me ask you, as a black man, 
how would you view this, how do you see this?” Sheppard 
says the man’s response was, “You gotta paint with your 
heart.” It eased Sheppard’s concern.
Laura Henkel, owner of Sin City Gallery, which special-
izes in erotic fine art, showed Sheppard’s  “Sensitive 
White Boy Syndrome” exhibit at her gallery in May. 
To her, the mural isn’t that erotic, even though some 
people say it is. “Typically you see a lot more in erotic 
art. This piece allows people to use their imagination,” 
Henkel says. “The work is provocative and engages conver-
sation as art should.”
Throughout the two-week painting process, people showed 
up offering him food, some inviting him back to their 
homes for dinner… or for sex. He got most of his work 
done at night because of the continual visitors and 
conversations he had during the day. There was one tagger 
who marked his piece while he was painting (he said if he 
saw him he would have offered him a spray can) but other 
than that, he says every-one who stopped by was encour-
aging. By the time he completed the project, his con-
fidence in the location completely changed. He wouldn’t 
have had the freedom to paint with his heart, like the 
bystander suggested, and wouldn’t have had the support 
from the community. “I wouldn’t have it in any other 
place,” he says.

-Jessie O'Brien
 An Erogenous Zone in the Cultural Corridor
 June 2, 2017

ALSO included in FADE TO GRAY, 4th Edition
by William Shea and Patrick Lai [CLICK HERE]

photos by Krystal Ramirez, Marlene Greenfield, Mikayla Whitmore, Laura Henkel


Pia Zadora photographed in front of The 705 Erogenous Zone by Krystal Ramirez