Combining portrait photography, video, and sculpture, the exhibition examines the pressure many men feel to achieve a sculpted, perfect body. Though today’s post-Internet world offers numerous expressions of gender and desire, the reality of social media is the hyper-comparison and competition between bodies, adding to longstanding tensions around the ideal figure.
At the core of the exhibition are 22 photographs of male weightlifters. Solicited online, these individuals were photographed against a draped backdrop in the artist’s studio, sometimes with gym props or engaged in exercise. As such, the works nod towards the tropes of physique photography, which depicted semi-nude, muscular men and were popular from the 1900s through the 1960s. Where physique photography presented models as idealized types, Selleck presents his subjects as they are—real people.
“I don’t filter according to age, race, or sexuality; I am looking for how they choose to present themselves to me in the studio environment,” said Selleck. “I get less a meditation on ‘toxic masculinity’ than individuals projecting their gendered identity with a degree of vulnerability.”
New to his ongoing series is the inclusion of self-portraits. Plaster casts of weights stacked to the artist’s height speak to the body’s fragility (5’10”/#205, 2019). The artist selected self-portraits that portray him wearing gym gear while holding a clicker in his hand (Self-Portrait, 2021 and Self-Portrait, 2022). These quiet self-portraits are bridges for the viewer to enter the world of the exhibition. Selleck’s engagement with this terrain emerges from his experiences coming of age as an overweight, gay teenager during the 1990s. The artist’s young adult life was complicated by desire and fear of isolation for existing outside the societal norms of the time.
The artist extends an invitation to the viewer to see themselves in this dialogue with the inclusion of mirrored walls. The mirrored walls invite introspection and comparison but also perhaps spontaneity and joy. “Body//Weight” contributes to a cross-generational conversation about the complexities of masculinity and reconciling one’s self-value with societal pressures.
The artist will be in conversation about “Body//Weight” at Mia on June 1. See artsmia.org for more information.