Exhibits examine takes on the meaning of masculinity

Definitions for masculinity are varied.

Two Albuquerque-based artists have created work to put their own take on what it means. The exhibits are running concurrently at the Harwood Art Center.

“Flexing in My Garden” by Zahra Marwan

Zahra Marwan’s “Crocodile Tobacco Flowers” is a short, sequential, visual narrative of a gentle man interrupted by two angry, constantly fighting men who live near him.

“Running free with their institutionalized misogyny, the series questions masculine traits and being excessively self-impressed,” Marwan writes.

Meanwhile Apolo Gomez’s “Don’t Think Twice” is an exhibition of photographic prints and Polaroids that include portraits of male-identified friends, as well as vernacular and constructed self-portraits of himself addressing the tension between intimacy, desire and queer trauma.

He says the exhibit includes photographic works from “You Make Me Want to Be a Man,” a series primarily made during the pandemic about male-centric sensuality and the identity of heterosexual and queer-identified men.

Marwan says her illustrations don’t have a personal narrative as many of her pieces of art have.

“David 2020” by Apolo Gomez

“I have three older brothers and I grew up in a conservative Muslim family,” she says. “Though I was given the freedom to chase my dreams. The illustrations were created for a book, which I hope, is forthcoming. Each one of the illustrations looks at what we perceive as masculine traits.”

“Maybe The’ve Noticed” by Zahra Marwan

Marwan worked on the project for eight months.

There are 15 pieces in the exhibit, which is also online at harwoodartcenter.org.

“I guess I always have to sit down and get myself to actively think about what I’m doing,” Marwan says. “I build my illustrations with a delicate combination of random thoughts, memories from the past, and little bits of reminiscences. Napping in the afternoon, smoking in the courtyard, coming across a small wedding, I almost forget. I like to discern warmth and poignancy in the imperfections that make us human. In all of my faults and inadequacies, through all of the pain and heartache, I find so much beauty in my life. In my illustrations I consider this wonderful, glorious mess we’re all living in.”

Gomez’s exhibit is hanging in the next gallery space inside the Harwood Art Center.

He’s excited to have Marwan’s pieces hanging nearby.

A Fight Where My Flowers Grow,” by Zahra Marwan

“I think both exhibits complement each other,” he says. “Zahra is also looking into what it means to be masculine.”

Gomez says the 25 portraits in the exhibit were taken over the last couple years.

“Each one looks at masculinity and male friendships through my lens,” Gomez says. “I’m not looking at one type of male. It was a journey to finding a spectrum of males.”

Gomez says he uses environmental portraiture, alternative processes and transdisciplinary media to explore relationships with men in his life from friends to lovers and acquaintances. “I focus on the male gaze, the male figure, desire, intimacy and masculinity,” he says.

“I grew up in a small community, throughout my adolescence I remember having a difficult time developing friendships with other boys. I didn’t understand boy culture and later on had a hard time adapting the idea of pride in masculinity. Instead I developed an awareness of my own queerness early on. I am placing men in their homes, places of intimacy and importance, photographing the way they look into the camera, the position of their bodies, the way they arrange their spaces. In these moments, I explore the disconnection of manhood filtered through the lens of my queer gaze.”

“Larry 2021” Polaroid by Apolo Gomez

Gomez also made the leap to incorporate images of himself in this exhibit – a move that hadn’t happened previously.

“There are snapshots of myself through my life,” he says. “I wrote my thoughts on those and I’ve included other Polaroids. The pieces aren’t hypersexual and I look at the beauty of masculinity and all the different definitions.”

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