It began as an idea of wanting to challenge the masculine stereotype, celebrating the beauty and grace of a man who is not afraid of vulnerability. I envisioned a Black man in sportswear (a common fetishisation of the hyper masculine in mainstream media) suspended in rope bondage. I also wanted to subvert the pornographic cliche commonly associated with rope bondage, depicting those tied up in submissive contexts.
It was a year before I met Christian who was the perfect embodiment of who I had in mind to be the muse for this piece. Someone who visually fits the stereotype of the hyper masculine man but 100% reflects this graceful and self aware vulnerability and gives space and nurtures it coming from others.
His flexibility from his background as a dancer, endurance and of course the good vibes between him and my rigger extraordinaire Chandler made for a smooth collaboration and we shot our reference images in a public park using a beautiful tree as a suspension point.
During the shoot Christian said something that stuck with me ‘I wonder what my ancestors would think if they saw me now, being tied up hanging from a tree. In Germany!’
This notion hadn’t crossed my mind. For me personally, the piece became as much a celebration of men embracing and owning their vulnerability as it did about racism. In the months that followed the BLM movement got me delving further into the worldwide history of racism, terms like micro aggression, the economics of empire and so much more.
Despite the admiration and celebration of the vulnerable man I also felt guilt. I’ll never be able to understand what it’s like to be a Black man because I will never be a Black man. I began asking myself things like…what does it mean for me as a white woman to depict a Black man in this way? Am I fetishising Black men? What does it mean for me, a white woman, to be producing and potentially making money from paintings of Black persons? Who am I to be doing this in the first place? Those are some of the thoughts and questions I grappled with.
And although I didn’t come to any solid conclusions, which I guess I was never meant to I am grateful for the process and the connections and journeys and learning my practice takes me on.