Artist Apolo Gomez’s portraits feature men in various states of dress and undress with a palpable sense of intimacy, challenging masculine stereotypes.
You Make Me Want to Be a Man by New Mexico-based artist Apolo Gomez is an exploration of masculinity, desire, and intimacy. The series of environmental portraits features men in various states of dress and undress with a palpable sense of intimacy. The depth and nuance expressed by the pictured men challenge masculine stereotypes and embraces intimacy over sexuality.
Audre Lorde wrote that Americans often mistake the pornographic for erotic in her essay Uses of the Erotic: the Erotic as Power from 1978, and therefore fail to recognize the depth and complexity embodied in the erotic. Gomez addresses the tension and perhaps confusion between sexuality, sensuality, and intimacy in his portraits, and like Lorde, embraces the erotic as a multiplicity of being. The men in Gomez’s portraits are simultaneously masculine, sensual, intimate, and are engaged with an interaction of desire. Unlike pinups, these figures do not represent objects of desire but embrace the exchange of desire through gaze and touch. In one portrait, a man is nestled into a wall of ivy while he gazes into the lens. The leaves of ivy touch his face and body, which appear to elicit a sensual pleasure. In another, a man is seated in an interior setting and in the background are embroidered pillows, signaling a familial past. He squeezes his thigh near the knee and the pressure marks of his hands are visible, while his intense stare is focused on the photographer/viewer. These are complicated images that go beyond the sexual to visually describe the nuance and character of Gomez’s subjects.
In a continuation of Gomez’s exploration of masculinity, he turns the camera on himself resulting in a conceptually layered image. The studio photograph utilizes lights and a backdrop and the props include a mask with an image of a handle-bar mustached face and a T-shirt that reads “maricón,” which means “faggot” in English. The self-portrait self-consciously pieces together identity and legacy, providing the viewer with insight into the person to whom all those desirous gazes were originally focused.
Albuquerque, NM | apologomez.com | ig: @apologomez