An artist statement or an open letter to the Flowery Men
[In the struggle for equality, we stand against economic, social, political and cultural discrimination that restricts and reduces gender expression to preconceived notions of masculinity and femininity.]
Throughout the history of Western visual arts, women have been the object of the male gaze. Aesthetics and ideals of physical beauty have long been shaped and defined by a male perspective. Women were widely excluded from arts academies. Therefore, not only have they been extensively portrayed by males, creating a tradition of female as the object of the male gaze, they have been prevented from developing their own tradition in representing men. For instance, there are no male nudes painted by female artists pre-dating the 20th century. The definition of masculinity has not yet been truly challenged by female perspectives.
Although it is essential to strive to retake control of our own image, I feel it is also vital for us women to represent men through our perspective, thus breaking beyond traditional male archetypes.
By returning the gaze, we posit ourselves on equal grounds; we finally see each other and this is where the conversation will begin and evolve: face to face.
We should not shy away from portraying our impressions of the male gender. We should delve into the complexities of each individual and never fear to say: “This is my perception, my understanding of you.”
Avoiding diminishing broad categorization, I want to celebrate being a woman who knows, experiences, sees, loves and hurts men. Each one differently because they are not “all the same”.
Is it such a trivial and naive proposition that we stop defining ourselves against the other? Could feminism finally be seen as a means for men to free themselves from the burden of living up to pre-determined gender roles, behaviours and even tastes rather than as the source of a supposed Western male identity crisis? Let’s become accomplices.
These portraits stem from tacit agreements, moments of complicity. You allowed me to capture you without being on your guard, without trying to control your own image. This is a moment where I was standing in front of you, fixing my lens through which I saw you, and for an instant there, you stood still for me.
And that is the grandest gesture.
Floridly painted in my mind.
Words and photographs by Eve T