This Thursday at the student art gallery, I entered the Max L. Gatov West Gallery, where I had the chance to observe and take in artist Gabriel Garcia’s interesting art.The artist’s art exhibition was entitled Toxic Masculinity, so based on the exhibition’s name, one could tell what Gabriel’s art is about, which is without a doubt an interesting issue that is present in today’s American society. To be candid, I did not take a look at all of the galleries because the gallery that hosted Gabriel’s art caught my attention immediately; the shades of gray and black combined with the topic of his art are attention-grabbers. When I entered the gallery, I saw drawings that related to the toxicity of today’s masculinity along with phrases that arguably fuels that toxic masculinity, phrases such as “Don’t be a pussy” or “You hit/run like a girl”. While I am sure that these phrases are said to make someone try harder at whatever it is that they are doing, they can cause mental harm to the receiver of the phrases and make that person display toxic masculinity in order to avoid hearing those phrases.
The artist has focused on this issue specifically for about two years now and he hoped to raise awareness of the toxic masculinity present in today’s society by making a statement through his art. I believe that Gabriel expressed the dark side of contemporary masculinity very well, for all of his drawings relate to true events where this toxic masculinity was displayed. An example of this are the drawings of the football helmet and the odd heart with the word “violent” upon it, which tells a tale of a football player named Ray Rice who would abuse his fiancee and yet she would still marry him and become his wife. Gabriel does not focus on the football player but on the situation as a whole, which shows that some men feel that a way for them to stay in control and dominant is to abuse others and put them down. What kind of woman would marry such a man?! Nevertheless,toxic masculinity is an issue present not only in the United States but in other countries as well, such as in the Philippines. A group of Gabriel’s drawings tell about a tragic event that occurred in Olongapo, Philippines, where a marine was stationed there and met a woman who turned out to be a man. Outraged by his discovery, the marine killed this woman. This person was a transgender and instead of fleeing from the person, he decides to kill her. Clearly, some men are still trying to keep their antique form of masculinity alive, but as social norms are changing, this form is seen as nothing but violent and unnecessary.
I find it awesome that Gabriel decided to raise awareness about a serious issue through his art and according to him, personal experiences played a role as to why he wanted his art to about this issue. Gabriel is from El Paso, Texas and he has been living in California for about three years, which he prefers due to its diversity. Gabriel has always been an artistic person but he would attempt studying in other areas in order to get a “real job” but because he did not see himself in the areas in which he was studying for, he pursued his passion, which is art. Gabriel is going for his MFA in drawing and painting and he hopes to become an art teacher in the future and if not, definitely get a career that is hands-on with the art, such as helping future artists or creating art. Upon being asked on his thoughts about the future and toxic masculinity, the artist replied that he did not think it would be gone during his lifetime. Gabriel may be correct that the toxic masculinity present today will not be gone anytime soon but as society experiences changes that seem to promote equality for women, this dangerous form of masculinity will surely dwindle and become extinct. I hope that such is the case. It was a pleasure walking in the Gatov West gallery and contemplating Gabriel’s interesting and thought-provoking art. Gabriel mentioned that he did not want to sound cocky by saying that if moved back to Texas, he would like to make a difference with his art but I hope that he does just that; I hope that his art provokes the viewers to think critically about the issue expressed and that it causes them to change their way of thinking/behaving, at least those who radiate toxic masculinity. It was a pleasure talking with the artist and I wish him only the best.