Heteronormative attitudes do not just occur. They are the outcome of years and years of collective internalisation. We are born into the world, blank slate. And we are exposed to our surroundings from the get go. There is no escaping it. It is just the reality.
While most of us mistake the implications of such exposure as our own values, gender non-conforming folk usually has a different experience. They are forced to question them. Most commonly early in their lives, due to their gender identity.
My story is no different. Coming to terms with who I was, was one hell of a struggle. But witnessing the same sad story repeat itself over and over again, every time on new victims is a whole new level of desperation I can not bring myself to accept.
Which is why I started this series. I want whoever that sees these artworks to rethink what masculinity means to them. We frequently use the term toxic masculinity today to refer to negative male behaviour emanating from stereotypical gender role expectations. Maybe it's time we turn the coin and construct a positive ideal first for what it should mean to be masculine.
Simply put, what does the perfect male look like?
As such, artworks in this series depict either men in a vulnerable light or empowered women. In male portraits, I pay particular attention to the expression in the eyes. Look closely, and you'll see that there is an intricate depth in the way eyes are painted to achieve an expressive look of failure.
In an effort to achieve the look in the eyes I describe above, I employ traditional Ottoman miniature painting style only for the eyes in each painting. As far as the style goes, the rest of the artwork can be described as realist. This allows me to distinguish the depth in the eyes but also works as a nod to the name of the series DYNASTY as it is an old technique with origins dating back thousands of years. Finally, this brings us to the question of the name. So, why DYNASTY?
I wanted to put this body of work together under the name DYNASTY because I believe that this word captures the generational vicious circle I mention in the first paragraph. The importance I attribute to constructing an ideal notion of masculinity stems from the constant cycle of problems gender non conforming folk goes through no matter how much legal progress is achieved for the queer community. I genuinely believe that this is partly perpetuated within the family as a social institution. Let me explain my thinking:
Families are the sacred backbone of the post-modern society. And as such, family as a social institution is hardly the target of any form of criticism. This makes it easier for heteronormative attitudes to gain ground in family attitudes where they tend to go unnoticed and continue take root to eventually become internalised by generations to come.
I like to capture this role of families in perpetuating a problematic notion of masculinity with the analogy of a dysfunctional DYNASTY ruling over a large land. After all, history is full of examples of dynasties that enjoyed tremendous power despite perpetuating negative practices across generations.
And what better way is there to stir up conversation on the intersection of all these topics than recreating the figure of a sultan with a troubled look on his face?