Art Exhibit Displays Back Male Love

The University of Illinois Springfield showed some love Thursday, Oct. 25 with the showcasing of a new art exhibit. “Love You Bro,” by artist Stephanie Graham, opened at 5:30pm in the Visual Arts Gallery in Health and Science Building 201. It will continue to run through Thursday, Nov. 15, and students are welcome to stop in anytime during typical HSB hours. “Love You Bro” ventures across the dimensions of gender, race, and emotion and where they coincide in black men, specifically.

Graham is an African- American artist that utilizes themes of lightheartedness, humor, and soul to address what may be arduous to express freely in such a politically volatile and dichotomized day and age.

Her works give art enthusiasts a glimpse into the world of diversity, dynamics among friends and family, and ethnic microcosms that they might not have otherwise been able to properly acknowledge. Her other projects have made debuts at Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago Artists Coalition, and Chicago Historical Society, among multiple others. Today, Graham works on the set of NBC’s “Chicago PD.”

“Love You Bro” features two brothers, Nathan and Danny. The gallery is decorated with pictures of them and their family posing in a multitude of ways, ranging from humorous to serious expression. In the right hand corner of the gallery, a TV screen hangs, playing a two-minute video clip of Nathan describing his relationship with his brother. He stated that the two of them had fought a lot when they were younger, which is fairly typical of young children. However, as they began to grow up together, their bond grew stronger. “It was just dope to have this copilot, going through the same things you were going through…we became young men together and were always there to listen to each other,” Nathan said.

He explained how they eventually grew apart physically, as is natural as people age, because their life paths separated with that they wanted to do. Flashing forward to now, Nathan doesn’t get to see his brother all that often now, since they live on opposite sides of town.

Still, they pick up right where they left off no matter what, as if no interval of time had passed. He said that they goof around exactly how they did as kids, and he loves Danny more than anything: “That’s my brother, that’s my heart.”

The unspoken message behind this exhibit seems to be that it is, or at least it should be, perfectly okay for anyone to express their love for family members and other people as a whole. It should not matter whether they are male or female, black or white; all people should feel comfortable in expressing their emotions and being themselves without fear of vilification or judgement.

There is a sort of stigma associated with men, particularly black men, allowing themselves to cry, confess love, or even openly display anything that society unfairly and coldly deems “weakness.” Conversely—and even more true than that implication—it takes a more refined kind of strength to allow oneself to be vulnerable, especially in public.

For someone to be able to stand up and state that they (believe it or not!) have a soft side, just like everybody else, is a sign of true confidence in oneself. Nathan’s closeness to his brother reminds students that it is not only okay, but encouraged, to open up and confess what they truly feel.

The reception for “Love Me Bro” will occur on Thursday, Nov. 1 in the Visual Arts Gallery, starting at 6:30 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m.