In athletics, the phrase “man-to-man” refers to a type a defense: one where a single player is paired against another individual. They are in constant competition, and as rivals they relentlessly compare themselves to one another. This colloquial expression, which I used as the title of my current body of work, also draws attention to the gendered term “man” as a social construction and signifies the diversity and complexity that exists between one representation of masculinity and another.
Throughout my childhood I felt an overwhelming responsibility and pressure from my stepfather and the small, Midwestern community in which I grew up to participate in athletics as a way to display socially delineated ideas of masculine behavior. American culture and society, in the same way, has its own set of constructed archetypes that dictate masculinity and the ways in which boys and men are expected to interact and perform their gender. My work as an artist explores the complications and subtleties of these expectations, specifically the complexity of desire and the diverse role it plays in how relationships form between males.
For me, these interactions can be observed and are located in the arena of athletics. Within this environment men are able to physically engage in a way that they are otherwise socially unable. On a very surface but still visceral level, being an athlete is regarded as the epitome of hyper-masculinity. It is through physical and aggressive acts of strength and dominance that they are championed for fulfilling a prescribed gender role. Within my work, I am interested in the bodies, objects, and materials that interact through these performances as well as the non-physical ways a male may begin to understand, develop, and experience a more nuanced gendered identity.