Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leo Greenfield talks about his Beards of Paradise

Leo Greenfield Beards of Paradise

Leo Greenfield talks about his series, Beards of Paradise.

If whiskers are a man’s diamonds, then a beard is a lad’s best friend. But in contemporary art practice what does a furry friend have to offer? And what does a time tested signifier of masculinity give to the creation of new drawings?

In building this body of work I became fascinated with the layers of meaning and the literal texture such manes have to offer. From the mythology of Neptune, to Noah and Knights, all the way through to alternative Bear culture. Beards grow on chins of all kinds; they are not just for those who exercise patriarchal control.

In order to expose the limitation of type casting masculinity, I set out to collect a ‘wunderkinder’-like collection of imaginary facial hair. As if taking on a biological study, I took to collecting beards, documenting them like botanical illustrations. Organising the collection as if one were classifying insects in museum vitrines.

Through this process I’m attempting to highlight how society pushes us into gendered pigeonholes.
Within this fanciful classification hair has replaced other revered objects. By doing this traditional masculinity is juxtaposed with objects that hold more feminine qualities; gem stones, lace and feathers. These are suggestive of the complexities of an individual’s gender and highlight the absurdity of fashionable dress.
The art of dressing and grooming is also examined in this body of work. Organisation and sophistication can only go so far: a clean white shirt still covers a beast. These drawings use the contrast between clothing and anthropomorphic creatures to remind us of this very human conflict. Elegance and the unruly are all embraced within the texture of the beard.

This collection of drawings seeks to re-imagine and transform our bodies. They hold a sense of wonder that may well encourage us to re-imagine masculinity and grow new gender qualities more fit for contemporary life.

For more information on Leo Greenfield please visit his ongoing blog project at

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