Blog / Rivalrous Masculinities

Posted by J Caldwell

This post is part of an ongoing series to accompany the student-curated installation Masculinities: Mainstream to Margins


Last week the Nasher Museum hosted Duke University student-curators from professor Ann Marie Rasmussen’s Fall 2013 Rivalrous Masculinities class. The students discussed their choices for the installation Masculinities: Mainstream to Margins and their definition of “masculinity.”

Elliott Erwitt, <em>Soldier, New Jersey</em>, 1951. Gelatin silver print. Dimensions:6 3/8 x 9 1/2 inches (16.2 x 24.1 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Robison Nasher Museum. 1978.21.14.

Also in the gallery is an iPad that features a prior iteration of the course designed specifically for the web. Their mission statement: Masculinity exists in more than one form, and those multiple forms of masculinity interact with each other, often resulting in conflict. In that conflict, each form of masculinity defines itself in response to the universe of all others and weaves itself into the construct of society. The relationship of masculinities to each other and to their binary— femininity—defines what it means to be a male.

Preliminary model

I found it interesting that the 2012 class opted to not include any images of women in their virtual exhibition, while the next year’s class did not follow this path. Even more fascinating was a preliminary model of the installation space. We invite you to explore both permutations, online and in person. The student curators encourage you to reconsider your first impressions of the images. Who can be masculine? What does it mean to be masculine? How do other factors like race and age affect masculinity? Why is a man who has a more feminine appearance seen by many as less masculine rather than more feminine? What stereotypes of femininity occur to you as you look at these images of men?


Elliott Erwitt, Soldier, New Jersey, 1951. Gelatin silver print, 6 3/8 x 9 1/2 inches (16.2 x 24.1 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Robison, 1978.21.14. © Elliott Erwitt.

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