Breathing life into a staid and overworked art form, John Slaby paints the human figure, predominately female, in a traditional, realist style with a contemporary twist. He chose the provocative title, The Male Gaze, as a challenge to the criticisms of this genre and sees his work
Slaby began painting the human figure over 20 years ago. Then, the female form was depicted in vulnerable positions within dark rooms. “That was when I first entered recovery,” says Slaby, “and those women were clearly expressive of my emotional state at the time.” The attraction to the female form is also driven by its stereotypical associations - compassionate, nurturing, the creator of life - and conversely repelled by those associations with the masculine - aggressive, distant, violent. “Part of this attraction to the feminine is the fear I have of men,” says Slaby.
The figures in this show reflect modern realities, where women have continued to take on the burdens traditionally reserved for men; thus, the depiction of Atlas as a woman. Several pieces in the show also confront issues of body shame. Barbie, one of the larger canvases at six feet in height, depicts a woman defiantly stepping on the eponymous doll. Flood, Slaby’s homage to the effects of Hurricane Harvey, is another large canvas and depicts a recovered photograph taped to a stained backboard. The trompe l’oeil style is disoriented by the large scale of the canvas.