“Try not to be quick in making assumptions,” artist Samuel Paden asks his Boise State student audience

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Focusing on sexual identity, American patriarchy and gender, artist Samuel Paden presents his mixed-media series The Narratives in the Student Union Fine Arts Exhibit. The work is made up of “collaged images from pop magazines repainted to create the artist’s explored self-identity,” said Boise State Art Curator Fonda Portales.

In this body of work, Paden combines material from periodicals and other sources, moving figures from their original background into a collage. The Narratives shows the male figure in a way that “threatens imagery to the dominant structure of a patriarchal narrative in society,” Paden explained.

“I think part of my process in focusing on male nudes is challenging both how men are portrayed as well as an internal narrative. It is both a reaction to the ways patriarchy in American culture express such control and concern over how males are presented in society and rigid gender norms,” Paden wrote in a follow-up email.

He focuses the viewer’s lens in order to question their perspectives.  “By making the male nude the object, there is a refocusing of the viewer’s gaze to ‘strip,’ if you will, the symbols of male power. I pay careful attention to how I balance the interactions between the figures. It is this tension that I find fertile ground for disarming and suggesting to the viewer to highlight and challenge preconceived beliefs,” Paden said.

Paden presents his Narratives not as answers to the audience’s questions, but as an opportunity to ask questions about their own perceptions within society and to challenge preconceived ideas.

Artists are deliberate, they are intentional. We want to think about what they are trying to make clear through their visual pieces,” Portales said. “Look at the way the artist has created forced juxtapositions in his collage. After looking at those juxtapositions, think about why those things come to mind. Why do we associate certain societal behaviors with certain kinds of images?”

For the many students at Boise State who have little to no background in art, Paden’s aspiration is that they may look at his work and make some sort of connection with it. He hopes that they are able to draw questions from it, asking: “what is this, what is it about?” Paden said.

“I am interested in challenging the viewer’s perception while allowing him or her to fill in narratives of his or her own,” Paden said.

“What I hope happens is that it may inspire an emotion, thought or even perhaps disturbance. When I say disturbance I don’t mean fear, although I suppose that certainly can happen, but rather a challenge to an expectation or held belief. The point isn’t to change minds, but rather to engage the viewer,” Paden said.

Paden expressed that while it can be difficult to put one’s own work out into the public sphere, it is rewarding as well. On one specific occasion, Paden explained, a viewer expressed that she was “both fascinated by and disarmed” by the work. This response stemmed from viewing familiar images of the male body in unfamiliar contexts. These feelings of fascination and disarmament are exactly the sorts of emotions that Paden hopes to draw from his Boise State audience.

A reception for Narratives will be held Tuesday, Jan. 9 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building Gallery. The event is free and open to the public. This event will kick off the Speaker Series: Civil Discourse on Politics and Art. Following this reception, Speaker Series Event #2: Narratives Artist Talk with Samuel L. Paden, will be held Thursday, Jan. 11 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the gallery. More events will follow.


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