What is the defining characteristic of what it means to be a man? What is that elusive quality that we define as “manly”? You see all these lists and books: “100 things every man should know how to do.” But who decides the criteria? Who determines what manliness is, and who teaches it? Is it a skill set? An attitude?
Three area artists and gallery owners muddled through these criteria and stumbled upon even more questions. They also stumbled upon a title: The Manly Show. Yes, it’s a tongue-in-cheek answer to The Girly Show, but it’s also a way to foster conversation about what it means to be a man in this day and age.
Tony Morton, gallery director of Paseo Originals Art Gallery; Stephen Kovash, owner/operator of Istvan Gallery; and Steve Boyd, exhibitions manager at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, set out to create a show that provides more questions than answers.
“A lot of people I think have a negative association with what makes a man,” Morton said. “Very rarely is it subjective.”
The three men, who all had different experiences growing up, realized that their formative years heavily influenced their ideas about what manliness means. They all cite male role models, or the lack thereof, as the underlying reason there is such disparity between modern attitudes about men’s roles and responsibilities.
“A lot of young men have no concept of what it means to be a guy,” Morton said.
Kovash is forthcoming about his lack of male role models growing up. He half jokes that he only recently learned to shave properly, prompting a conversation about how there aren’t any hard and fast rules about who teaches boys to be, well, men. All three men agree that there is a knowledge gap between the men of an older generation and young men today.
“We are in no way poking fun at The Girly Show or its mission,” Morton said. “[The Girly Show] was all about supporting women in art, and that exposure is important.”
The Manly Show’s cheeky title is intended to generate buzz, get people in the door and get them talking, or at least thinking, about the larger topics. They invited artists and craftsmen who do typically manly things — Jeff Stokes makes hand-tied flies for fishing and hand-carves pipes, and Rick Bewley makes jewelry out of masculine materials like rebar.
There will be straight-razor shaves by Lakeside Barbershop and food and refreshments from the likes of Jerky.com and Byron’s Liquor Warehouse. Byron’s will hold an RSVP-only tasting of premium brown spirits — you know, the manly stuff.
There will be plenty of visual artists on hand, including David Holland with his stunning storm paintings, Brett McDanel’s sculptures made of mechanical parts and Bryan Cook’s breathtaking landscape photography.
The event will also host Big Brothers Big Sisters and Positive Tomorrows, both groups that work to mentor America’s youth. Morton, in particular, has a personal connection to Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization he feels helps fill the hole of missing mentors in young men’s lives. Both groups will be on hand to help with questions and share their mission.
There will be musical entertainment all through the two-night event, and in another cheeky nod to who the night belongs to, cover will be free for the men only. Sorry, ladies. You have to pay (but only a dollar) to join the fun. It will be a family-friendly event that the curators hope facilitates conversation long after revelers leave.
“In some ways, this show is an art piece in itself,” Morton said, “a giant art piece that everyone can be a part of and can change them, make them a better person.”
The men have plans to make it an annual event, getting more community outreach involved and adding more artists and craftsmen to the roster. To understand something, you first have to have dialogue about it.