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 censors 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 portraits are the real effects that the pressure of idealized manhood creates. Men are either encouraged or scrutinized based on representations of their gender or implied sexuality that gives society false ideas of what is appropriate for men. The portraits of men represent a collective understanding of these expectations. Each portrait is meant to be a personal exploration of each individual’s own idea of manhood, with each titled with their own definition of masculinity or superhero that they looked up to in childhood.