My work explores congruencies in masculinity from my childhood into adulthood. As individuals, we are taught from an early age what it means to be male or female, and when an individual deviates from expected gender roles society polices them. My earliest memory of the expectations of men are based on comic book superheroes, which influenced my understanding that men are supposed to be strong and dominant. I find commonalities in these associations, specifically in representation of heroism and masculinity, in popular advertisements that feature male celebrities.
The Toxic Masculinity series started as a reaction to contemporary ideas of male beauty found in advertisements meant to convey socially constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, and sexually aggressive. The controlled environment of the Calvin Klein advertisements and the comic book superheroes are forced into the same world to highlight the exaggerated gender norms, stereotypes, and expectations of masculinity in our society. The main focus of the work is to shed light on negative body image that has been perpetuated by social media especially in the gay community. However, there is a contradiction in these ideas - while I aim to reject the unrealistic body image that the celebrities are achieving I also go through stages of wanting to look like them. Their status in our society is elevated while other body types are shamed or mocked by the gay community that prides itself on self acceptance and support.