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HOT•BED is pleased to present Quiet Boy, a new solo exhibition by painter Elizabeth Bergeland. For the first time in her career, Bergeland turns her attention to male bodies—painting men in her life and speaking with them about their experience of masculinity, insecurity, and the roles society casts them in. In this collection of nine new works, the artist presents a thoughtful and empathetic view of men as seen through the female gaze, noting that the patriarchy, which so obviously harms women, is also not serving the wellbeing of boys and men. The exhibition will be on view March 12 - May 14, 2022, with an opening reception March 12th from 6-9 PM, and a closing reception May 14th from 6-9 PM. To RSVP, please visit https://www.hotbedphilly.com/appointments.
Bergeland took up the subject of masculinity in her painting practice after observing her young son beginning to adopt archetypal male traits around his friends: a resistance toward crying, fear of being seen as sensitive, avoidance of more “feminine” colors or activities. By interviewing and painting the men in this series of portraits, she realized that there was so much left out of the story of the American man's experience; men have money, power, and prestige, but they are often barred from intimate relationships and emotional honesty, saddled with the pressure to provide and constantly prove their masculinity. Quiet Boy takes its title from a poem by Stephen Kampa about the early social pressures boys feel to embrace and exhibit masculine traits or else risk isolation. Through these works, Bergeland explores personal and universal questions around raising children within a patriarchal society and how we may individually and collectively broaden society’s ideas around masculinity.
At the core of Elizabeth Bergeland’s work is the search for gray matter, and a desire to keep her curiosity intact. She loves placing objects or figures in imagined spaces as a way of asking, “what would happen if...”
Recently, her work has turned toward the topic of masculinity and how we, as Americans, are raising our boys. Working with subjects who identify as men, and approaching the work more as a journalist or social scientist by cataloging long interviews with the people she paints, she is trying to separate the men (that she loves) from the masculinity (that she doesn't always love). Initiated by the desire to simply “try on” a reversal of traditional roles by instead placing men’s bodies in the canvas from the vantage point of the female gaze, this body of work has moved in the direction of empathy. She is asking what it means to “be a man” and discovering the myriad of ways that masculinity hurts men too.
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