People's faces always tell a good story. Some quickly looked away as if they just committed one of the seven deadly sins. Others resembled cats in doorways: They like looking from afar, imagining what’s on the other side of the door but happy for the moment not to find out. Then there were people that came up right away and wanted to know what it’s all about. Such were the reactions when my fine art nudes were on display during an artist expo at a recent professional networking event. One of those “cat” individuals actually crossed the threshold by coming back to my table after he had pursued all the others. On my display board it mentioned my solo show and ebook, “Hero Myth of the Masculine Journey.” He asked, “What do you mean when you use the word masculine? That’s a loaded word.”
|Looks told stories that night|
It became clear during our subsequent conversation that he was referring to the gender stereotypes that this label caters to. Society projects what men should be like, how they should act and dress. I told him that the title reflects my attempt to redefine masculinity. Through the use of haiku, myth and photographs, I created a story that asserts that men define masculinity for themselves through their life choices and attitudes. There comes a time when we must decide whether to live life as an adventure or play it safe and level out at mediocrity. This choice boils down to whether we chose to answer our calling in life or not.
I was thrilled that he asked the question, because it meant that he responded to the work. By the end of the conservation, this gentleman said that I was defining the word “masculine” in a different way than he imagined. This conversation got me thinking about labels in general. Should we get rid of them entirely or refine them? We know some groups have taken the hurtful labels of the past and reshaped them into a new positive identity. “Queer” is one such label that comes to mind. Still others labels have been thrown out. I think ultimately the group that the label attempts to categorize should answer that question. Because I am a man, I wanted to use art to redefine masculinity. What are we doing to either redefine or throw away the labels that box us in to what others want us to be?