This post is for those of you who seek to know me as a person. So, if you are solely interested in appreciating my work objectively, then maybe skip this one. This is for those inquiring minds who seek to know the person behind the work. It is an insight into what drives my passion, and it unearths aspects of me you have not yet seen – namely, the analytical, opinionated and interrogative sides … with a hearty dollop of my cynical humour.
So why do I do what I do? Why do I choose the subject matter I do? What inspires and fuels me.
I can sum it up in one word … delve.
I want to delve into every aspect of life, and go as deep as humanly possible. I want to seek truth in its most raw, provocative, vulnerable and honest forms. I am always digging deeper.
People often ask me how I get my ideas, and what my process is. I answer that it is sort of like a nice form of schizophrenia – the characters and scenes just appear is visual form in my head, just like a movie, equipped with names and everything – it is simply my job to interpret what I see in words, or on the canvas.
So, depth is the general premise of my work. But, as I was considering my inspiration further, I made a few realisations. I realised that my main source of inspiration is actually connected to a broader sociological issue. So, when I was thinking about this post, I found myself shuffling off into the world of social commentary.
For those of you who follow me (many thanks and my humblest gratitude) you may have detected a common thread in my fictional works. Most of my fiction pieces – novels, short stories and flash fiction – have male protagonists. It is a curious trend I suppose – to write from a male perspective when I am obviously undeniably female. But there is a rather simple reason why I do this. I am fascinated by men. I find them, on the whole, intriguing and convoluted. I find myself continually inspired by them. I have always been one of those women who gets along well with men. Even back in school I found it easier to befriend boys then I did girls. When I was going through my spiritual, ‘airy-fairy’ phase in my late teens, I considered why this was. I deduced that there was just less bull-shit with men. It was easier to be myself around a man. And I liked the fact that you don’t have to tread as carefully around their feelings. I can be more honest with a man, for reasons I have never been able to fully explain.
This is not to dismiss the infinitely glorious specimens of females the world has to offer, and will continue to offer. I have known many exceptional and beautiful women – both inside and out. But it is men … men who hold the most intense interest for me. I am fascinated by them collectively, and champ at the bit to delve into an individual one; stripping off the layers and sourcing the truths underneath the front. I realised that it is actually the fronts that initially tweak my interest. I’m a perceptive person – always have been – even when I was too young to understand what it was that I was seeing beneath the surface. It is a gift (sometimes a curse) of being a naturally deep soul with an inquiring mind. So, even as a young woman, I could perceive that many of the boys, or men around me, were putting up a façade. And I also knew that I wanted to push past it and find out what was underneath. I systematically did this, more or less successfully (sometimes disastrously) for all of my twenties. And what I found only fuelled my interest further. There was so much under there, and I pushed as deep as any particular guy would let me go.
It is the male facial structure, and body form, that inspires much of my art. It is the masculine front that beckons me to press deeper. But it is the male archive of emotion that captures my most intense attention. Because it is, more often than not, very difficult to get to.
But why is that? Why is it more difficult to tap into the emotional archive of men? Why do they put up fronts? Why do they hate being vulnerable?
This line of internal questioning led to a full-scale social commentary in my mind. (And I warn you, I am not a sociologist. I speak from personal observations with no hard evidence in the form of data or statistics).
So, why do men put up fronts? I think perhaps the more prudent question is why wouldn’t they?
Given the society we are living in, and the phases humanity went through to get us here, is it any wonder that men put up a front? The men my father’s age (65 or around there) were from the generation where men still brought in the bacon. They were getting married and raising children just when the women’s rights movement – and indeed many other simultaneous movements – were coming blazing to the fore. The men of this age were slowly being invited into birthing suites, instead of celebrating on the outskirts with brandies and over-sized cigars. Ideas about gender roles were rapidly changing. But, these men had been raised by fathers who held very strong convictions about what it meant to be a man. A man provides. A man is strong, and doesn’t show weakness. A man doesn’t cry and he certainly doesn’t stay at home. So the men my father’s age still carried many of those values, passed down to them from their own fathers.
Then we get to the trickiest generation when it comes to considering men (in my opinion anyway). These are the men around my husband’s age – that is, mid-thirties to forties. These men were raised predominantly by one of three kinds of father: the ones who staunchly held to the old beliefs, the ones who fell somewhere in between, and the ones embracing the new ideas that supported gender equality. This mix of paternal influence suddenly created differences in the way boys were raised. And the mothers of this generation were equally paramount in redefining what it meant to be a man. In short – what it was to be a man was now unfixed and adaptable – to both sexes.
These sons grew up, and formed lives of their own, and decided to get married and have children. This created even more of a mixture of ideals and values. It is the men of this generation – the sons of the gender equality revolution – who have got a bit of a rough deal. Because they have grown up still being told that men are supposed to provide, and to be strong, and to not show emotion. But they are marrying women who have been raised to believe that they can do anything – women who are independent and self-sufficient and empowered.
I think that provides the key to the answer. The men of today are guarded and closed because of the myriad of expectations being placed upon them. They have the expectations of other men in their world to live up to. Many of their fathers and other male role models have taught them that their worth is defined by how well they provide, and by how well they grasp reason and suppress emotion. But they also have the expectations that women place on them – girlfriends, mothers, aunties, and sisters, and wives, who expect them to be sensitive and approachable, and soft and gentle. Women who expect men to support their empowerment and self-fulfilment, to respect their equal rights and capabilities, and to identify with their feelings and reciprocate emotional receptivity and communication. The husband or partner who cannot do so is labelled a bastard – a heartless, cold and generally unlovable buffoon. BUT, at the same time, many women still enjoy some facets of having a man who can protect her, provide for her, and be strong for her and their children.
In short … MEN ARE EXPECTED TO BE SUPERHUMAN. They are expected to live up to the traditional preconceptions of masculinity, WHILST embracing their emotional, communicative and vulnerable sides. They have conflicting demands thrown at them from every direction. That is the conundrum of the men of my husband’s generation. And yet we wonder why they are confused. We sit, sipping chardonnay with our girlfriends, marvelling at the audacity of men, and whinging in unison of their reluctance to open up or telepathically perceive the rapid shifts in our emotional tides. We wonder why they seem to shut off, and repeatedly say things such as, ‘I don’t know why I even open my mouth, I never say or do anything RIGHT!’
Here it is in a nutshell. I think the world became so focused on empowering women, and equalising gender roles, that men were slowly forgotten. This is my stance … I am anti-feminism. Rather, I like to consider myself a HUMANIST. Now, before you go lighting the torches and rummaging around for the pitchforks, allow me to explain; I have great respect for the equal rights movement. I applaud those people for taking a stand and fighting for equality. They did us all an immeasurable service. But it is, for the most part, done now (at least in the Western world). Yet still so many women seem to hold this almost palpable self-righteous taint of feminist resentment. Even I would not dare to make certain comments to a modern day feminist. Any mention of liking being a stay-at-home mother, or god-forbid the choice to don an apron on the odd occasion, and the ferocity of their glare could start a fire! And I’m a woman. I cringe to think of the consequences should a man say such things to this type of woman.
I don’t think this attitude is fair on men, nor is it any longer relevant. These kinds of women are not stopping at equal rights. They are seeking to supercede men. They want domination, and basically to punish men for the failures of those that went before them. I think this is major contributing factor to why men generally find it hard to open up. I know I wouldn’t want to if I were in their shoes and had so many conflicting views thrown at me about what a man should be.
Men are amazing. Women are amazing. I know just as many female arseholes as I do male ones. Being a jerk is not the prerogative of one sex. So why don’t we all just BACK the FUCK off and start, at the very least, questioning why men might be guilty of being guarded, closed and even outwardly cold. They have just as many strengths and weaknesses as women do. They have equal capabilities for greatness and abhorrence. They have individual male traits and different wiring patterns in their brains, but those differences are something to be embraced, not criticised. I think it’s time that society cut men some slack. It is, after all, the husbands and fathers of today who are helping to raise the men of the future. We should be celebrating our equality and looking beyond it. We should be sourcing the beauty in everyone, irrespective of gender, race, age, ethnicity, class or anything else that might outwardly define us.
The painting is one of mine, entitled ‘Fragility’.