My artwork explores the hidden traumas that surround masculine identities in rural cultures. Through the use of traditionally rural/working class objects I’ve constructed a visual language that speaks to the loneliness, frustration, and toxicity of my experience growing up in a remote conservative setting. Domestic beer, blue jeans, work boots, guns, and jacked up trucks. Being raised in rural northwestern Illinois, A product of both blue collar and hunting/fishing culture. Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by this special brand of camo clad masculinity and “traditional” ideas of gender roles.
For me hands symbolize determination, grit and strength. Hands touch, hands build, hands provide a history. My father was a mechanic for 30 years, my grandfather an electrician for 40. Following the example of the working-class men in and outside of my family, I used my hands to perform hard manual labor from an early age. These men molded me into a hardworking individual with a work ethic that I am still very proud of today. But from a young age I felt alone and out of place in this culture and could never make sense of it. I regularly felt social pressure to participate in ritualistic displays of manhood - such as hunting, binge drinking or fighting- out of fear of persecution. I was never very interested in these types of activities and was often told to “man up” or “stop being so sensitive.” Emotions are seen as a weakness and men are taught and expected to repress their feelings. This way of living was destructive and led to extreme feelings of emptiness that can be seen and felt in my artwork. Through my art practice making, I aim to make sense of my personal experiences, and my own identity in a conservative rural community while simultaneously challenging the outdated ideas of gender and culture within these communities.