The woman known simply as Marilyn may have soaked up her liberal views about sex in Brazil, her mother’s homeland and the country where she was born. Or maybe they’re a reaction to her strict upbringing. These days the onetime Catholic schoolgirl and army brat is the co-owner and director of a gallery devoted to erotic art that opened last year in Wicker Park.

Marilyn’s family moved around a lot when she was a child, following her American father from Brazil to postings in Panama and the U.S. She settled in Chicago about 15 years ago and embarked on the artistic life, doing performance art and attending the School of the Art Institute for a semester. In 1990 she enrolled at the American Academy of Art, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in electronic and graphic design.

Around the same time she got interested in the world of bondage and domination; she recalls tying a boyfriend to the couch in her living room and dripping candle wax on him. For the last six years she’s been a “lifestyle dominatrix.” “I am skilled in the arts of teasing and denial,” she says. “In other words, I am a tease and the submissive can do nothing about it. It’s like seeing a big piece of cake and not being able to lift the see-through cover.” She’s supported herself by modeling for erotic magazines like Fetish and On Our Backs and occasionally selling her artwork.

But recently she started to think she didn’t want to be an artist: “I realized I was extremely sick of it and visualized myself on the other end.” On a visit to New York last year, she went to the Guggenheim Museum, where she saw sketchbooks of erotic art displayed under glass–the work of Salvador Dali and Joan Miro. “There were these little sketchbooks sort of hidden so no one could really see, whereas I think people should know that stuff,” she says.

That’s when she decided to open her own gallery, something she’d considered for years. By doing so, she realized, she could express her feelings about sexuality and sensuality with other people’s work. Last year she and a partner, Kurt Wright, found a space on North Avenue and christened it Feitico, which in Portuguese means “charm” or “sorcery.” “So now I have a gallery and I’m learning the business of being an artist, dealing with artists and dealing with dealers,” says Marilyn.

At Feitico’s recent first-anniversary party, sculptures of multiple pairs of breasts in myriad colors hung on the walls opposite black-and-white photographs of nude women. So as not to shock passersby, works of a more sexually graphic nature are kept toward the back. Feitico also offers erotic and fetish life-drawing classes for those who wish to hone their technique. “It’s hard to be taken seriously as an artist when you work in erotica,” says photographer Lee Higgs, who’s exhibited at the gallery.

For Marilyn, Feitico is a place where she can spread her beliefs: “Sexuality should be respected, appreciated, and adored!”

Feitico is at 1821 W. North. “Photographs From the American West,” an exhibit by Steve Diet Goedde, is on display through August 20. Call 773-384-0586 or check out –Kelly Barnes

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eugene Zakusilo.