Categorized | The Bronx Beat

A different take on what it means to be a man

Ivan Velez, Jr., the curator of the Eye Am a Man exhibit. (Photo: Linda Thrasybule/The Bronx Ink)

By Linda Thrasybule

When you stand in the middle of the Project Room at the Longwood Art Gallery in Hostos Community College in the Bronx, a thread of masculinity can be seen almost everywhere. Across each painting, drawing and sculpture in the current exhibition, hard, muscled bodies reveal strength and sexuality, but underneath the surface is a vulnerability that is raw and honest.

But in each piece of artwork, every man is gay.

The Eye Am A Man exhibit, which opened last January, is an exploration of gender and ethnic notions of being gay and masculine in our society today. Ivan Velez Jr., a local cartoonist, well known in the mid-80s for his book, “Tales in the Closet,” a 10-chapter graphic novel series that depicts the lives of eight gay teenagers in Queens, has resurfaced to be the curator of the exhibit.

Velez felt motivated to put together such an exhibit because of his involvement in the bear community, a subculture of the gay community that refers to large, hairy, muscular men who project a hyper-masculine image.

“I’m trying to change the perception that not all bears are old white men that look like Santa,” Velez said.

Based on his experience with the bear community, he found that “bears” love masculinity even idolize it.

“They hold onto it very hard,” he said. “But not in an overt macho way. They’re playful about it.”

The exhibit does contain adult sexual content, but nevertheless the show captures Velez’s message. “Once a man comes out in his community, they tend to strip them from their manhood,” said Velez. “It’s like you’re not a man anymore. You’re gay so you don’t count as a man. But I want to say, no, we’re still men.”

The exhibit features numerous artists from New York City, Maryland and even Japan. Among them are Chad Boss, Louis Kwong, La Buruquena, Harry Medina, Kei Otani, Carlo Quispe, and Soulivanh Thammavong.

The Longwood Art Gallery is located on the campus of Hostos Community College, 450 Grand Concourse at 149th Street in the Bronx. Contact information: (718) 518-6728 or

Leave a Reply