Jesse Burke at the Rhode Island School of Design

Jesse Burke Pink & Black 2005 C-prints detail view of installation

Jesse Burke Pink & Black 2005 C-prints detail view of installation

The two images above are elements of a larger work by Jesse Burke which we encountered while in Rhode Island last week.

While we were having dinner in Providence we met several young artists who were dining together at the next table. They all had some connection to the Rhode Island School of Design, and before we left the city we visited that school's installation of work by artists who had just completed its graduate program. There we encountered this piece by Jesse Burke, one of the people we had spoken to at the restaurant. We thought his Pink and Black was the strongest work in the entire show. I will be very surprised if he isn't adopted by a good New York gallery very soon.

The complete work we saw at the RISD Museum is shown below.

Jesse Burke Pink & Black 2005 C-prints

The artist's statement:

The idea of masculinity is so incredibly fragile, so sought after, because of what it stands for, because of the history of men. A delicate balance exists between the heroic ideal of masculinity – strength, endurance, toughness – and the true, fragile reality of men as seen through my eyes. My work is an autobiographically driven investigation into the notions of masculine identity and the presence of vulnerability and sensitivity that acts as forces against the mythology of male dominance and power.

My notions of what it means to be a man are romantic. I believe an innate part of our psyche needs us to be the Iron John of Robert Bly, yet we are responding to that primal urge in a new way. We have grown into a new fragility. We identify and illuminate within ourselves what it means to be men through the examples we see in our families, in the media, and in our peers. We are bombarded by images defining what it means to be male, and we are helpless but to give in part way to these campaigns. We are fragile.

I photograph my life and the lives of the men in my social and family circles in an attempt to understand from where our ideas of masculinity originate. As the author I act as an interpreter of a specific culture and mythology. I am most drawn to the moments when we are vulnerable or emasculated; where there is a presence of a rupture or wound inflicted in some way, whether it be physical, emotional, or metaphorical. I employ concepts such as male bonding and peer influence, masculine rites and rituals, homosocial desire, physical exertion, and our connections to one another as well as the landscape that we interact within to expose these instances.

[image at the bottom from Jesse Burke]