The touchtones of masculinity are a ripe territory for exploring — and exploding.
Things like beer culture and sports fandom are the hallmarks of straightness (along with whiteness) and, accordingly, are areas where outsiders are typically blocked out. Still, we gaze in, poking fun and adopting the things that they do to feel like we are “normal.” Or, you know, we do these things to both make fun of those who are normal and poke holes in that which they hold sacred.
Artists Esmaa Mohamoud and Qendrim Hoti must feel this way as a recent joint project of theirs is a fantastic skewering of so many intersectional subjects, specifically maleness. The two created gowns that extend from Raptor NBA jerseys, fashioning outfits that are sculptural while performing teenage prep for quinceñeras or sweet sixteens. It’s queer prom wear, items intended to make people question and confused, a means for the female to opt into the male.
The work – titled One Of The Boys – appears to be a multi-tiered sculpture via performance via fashion worn by two seemingly masc models. It serves a similar investigative function to that Moonlight did for black queerness, a means to approach gender and racial identities as baggage that needs to be rummaged through and played with. By placing these supposedly masculine bodies – people who look like they could play the sport – in basketball jerseys that end in dresses, ripe subversion occurs that welcomes queer slurs in the real world. But in a gallery, performative, fantasy environment? These figures are princesses, chaotic beauties intended to seep into the beholder to question how we all construct ourselves.
One Of The Boys is just a fabulous work, a collaboration that has yielded an unrivaled power. This isn’t the duo’s first collaboration either as they created another basketball riffing work before, a subject that Mohamoud keeps returning to in her work. One Of The Boys is on view now at the Art Gallery of Toronto through December 10.