Dean Adams was born in San Francisco, California and raised in Billings, Montana. He earned his MFA from the University of Iowa. Art has taken him around the world, most recently designing and firing wood kilns and exhibiting work in Brazil and Paraguay. With Josh DeWeese, Adams is co-director of the International Wild Clay Research Project at MSU, an interdisciplinary research and teaching vehicle based on indigenous ceramic materials. Adams works as the Foundations Coordinator in the School of Art and the Associate Dean for the College of Arts & Architecture at MSU. Notable recent exhibitions include work in the Bienal de Curitiba in Curitiba, Brazil and Animal Farm: Beastly Muses and Metaphors, curated by Susanne van Hagen for Sotheby’s S2 Gallery in London, England.
The Art of Being Male
Beauty does not lie in the eye of the beholder. As soon as we enter the world we begin the process of enculturation and acculturation through submersion in the world around us, both the familiar and the “other” helping determine our belief system. Culture is multifarious and the collection ideals, attitudes, principles, behaviors, and rules defining a community. Choice, cognition, and memory assist us as we confront complex decisions during our journey through life – or so we think. We are extremely adaptable animals capable of amazing thinking abilities, including abstract thought, self-control, and metacognitive processes. However, powerful forces beyond conscious thought impact our lives in multitudinous ways.
Consider arousal and the power of emotion in our lives. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model contains assorted forms of stimulation throughout but the only one present in the biological and physiological layer is sex. We are sexual beings, inhibited and enabled by intuition, pheromones, and our subconscious. I use the image of the penis combined with other imagery, especially birds, to create icons of a new paradigm contrary to popular cultural attitudes of male sexuality. By detaching the penis from realistic human form and re- contextualizing it with the bird form I create a new paradigm for a contemporary world. The winged phallus has been made by many cultures throughout time, often as a good luck charm intended to ward off the evil eye.
I de-eroticize the penis and celebrate maleness in a playful, humorous way that permits viewers to let their guard down. Humor allows me to be more furtive. There is a parallel between my work and other forms of humor. Bigoted humor is the most subversive form of intolerance because of the guise of humor. My work uses wit subversively, but in a positive way, allowing the viewer to consider the penis, maleness, homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality in a way that is unhindered by the human form. They violate a taboo born out of mainstream cultural connotations expressing male sexuality as characterized by abuse, domination, pornography, and narcissism. We are a society that is, paradoxically, phallocentric, phallophobic, homophobic, and repressed. I intend my pieces to act as metaphors representing uninhibited phallic sexuality, which is negative to neither males nor females.