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It says something about painter Sri Whipple's aesthetic that when you view his paintings on his Flickr page, there's a warning: If you've changed your mind about wanting to see this content, you can escape. And this link: "Take me to the kittens!"

So when you finally meet Whipple, you wonder how this guy who has a reputation in the art community as nurturing and "all-around sweet" manages to create such disturbing images.

"I get labeled as the guy who paints penises and vaginas," Whipple laments in his warehouse district studio.

The truth is, little of Whipple's work shows graphic nudity. Hanging on the walls, for instance, there's maybe one nipple and a phallic cartoon garden hose. Still, there's no denying his colorful voluptuous figures seem inspired by a demented balloon twister. Some of his hypererotic canvases appear to writhe with legs, thighs, rumps and high heels.

Whipple describes his work as "a mix of pop and surrealism." But it's also apparent in the images that he's studied Italian Renaissance masters Titian and Caravaggio. Whipple's work is smart, and the University of Utah-trained artist makes no apology for ambiguous and troubling symbology.

"It shouldn't be assumed that the viewer is an idiot," he says of the layers of meaning in his work.

Whipple is a master of line and material, says Cara Despain, co-curator at the Garfo Gallery.

"He's one of the best draftsmen around and his work is on par with artists anywhere in the world," Despain says. "And he's a nice guy who is really great to talk to about art."

Whipple combines extraordinary technical competence with a unique vision, agrees Adam Price, director of the Salt Lake Art Center. "Some of his images are very disturbing, there is no question about it," Price says. "He explores images and ideas that are unsettling in some ways. He's definitely pushing the boundaries on what is acceptable in Salt Lake City."

To contemporary sculptor and painter Elmer Presslee, Whipple's work is unsettling in a completely different context. "When I see his stuff, it makes me sick to my stomach. I tell Sri, 'How can you be so good?' "

Whipple admits he has "softened up" on overt sexual images because of a squeamish sensibility of many local collectors and galleries. "Someday, I might come back to it. I might take some of these ideas even further."

Salt Lake City artist Sri Whipple, 36, has paintings available for viewing (after you sign up on the site and read those warnings) at