Here is the second of our posts of the text panels in the Explorations IV: Masculinities exhibition. This section of the exhibition is rated PG 16.
Artistic representations of sexuality have more commonly focused on the female body but from time to time the tables are turned and the male body becomes the sexual object. In Jamaica, the sexualized representation of the male body is a taboo subject that reflects deep-rooted insecurities about gender roles and sexuality although, as some of the works in this gallery illustrate, there are signs of change and contestation.
This gallery includes a number of art works in which the male body is represented in sexual or erotic terms. A few of these works are more actively sexualized while others merely focus on the beauty and implied erotic potential of the male body. Some also speak to the tensions in male-female relationships: Milton George’s Pages from My Diary (1983), for instance, satirizes assumptions about male sexual dominance, as it places a diminutive male figure – the artist himself – at the mercy of the female objects of his desire. Satire is also evident in Leasho Johnson’s work, which provides a critical perspective on societal norms about sexuality and gender.
Several works in this gallery question and challenge normative male gender constructions, without being actively sexual. Some of these are subtle, such as Edna Manley’s Man with Wounded Bird (c1934), which focuses on traditionally female attributes such as gracefulness, vulnerability and tenderness. Other examples cross gender boundaries more radically, such as Marlon James’s Vogue (2012), which portrays a modern-day cross-dresser, or Ebony G. Patterson’s The Observation (Bush Cockerel) – A Fictitious History (2012), a video installation in which androgynous bird-man figures play games with our assumptions about male/father and female/mother roles. Isaac Mendes Belisario’s Koo, Koo, or Actor-Boy (1837) represents a more complex kind of drag – racial, cultural, and gender – but reminds us that non-normative gender enactments have a history in Jamaica, as a part of how the social status quo has been challenged.