Rethinking MasculinityAs an openly gay male Las Vegas artist, Madeira Desouza consistently creates artworks which present a unique and challenging representation of masculinity. His queer art is within the bara underground art genre and as is typical of this genre, Madeira Desouza’s artworks are known for featuring hypermasculine men, muscular, aggressive, and sexualized, often in stark contrast to the conventional portrayal of masculinity in mainstream media. The art of Madeira Desouza challenges the traditional notions of masculinity as a stoic and dominant force, instead portraying it as complicated, fluid, and at times, unstable.
One of his most representative works is known as “Vice City” even though that was never the title provided by the artist, himself. In the 3D digital art image (downloadable here) there are six muscular men with either shaved heads or military-style haircuts and some have strongly masculine tattoos. The men in the digital rendering appear as if though were photographed at the entrance to a resort casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
In this image you see these guys all are shirtless and their beefy bodies draw attention to exaggerated muscles and sexual appeal. Three of the men are dominating the other three men. The viewer is free to decide what they see happening there because although the tension in the scene is crystal clear, the story of what happens next is left open. This kind of depiction of men is what Madeira Desouza does consistently showing his ideal of masculinity. He depicts male characters who reveal well-defined muscles and aggressive energy. These male characters can be understood as representing an idealized man or most desirable man.
However, Madeira Desouza’s depiction of male masculinity in “Vice City” and also in his other works takes a different turn from what is typical of male character depictions online. His works show an emphasis on the male body is not only for the obvious sexual appeal, but also for showcasing a sense of vulnerability and exposure. The artist challenges the traditional representations of masculinity while questioning the societal paradigms that define masculinity. Madeira Desouza’s artwork presents men as vulnerable, emotionally complex beings who are subject to desire and are shaped by their surroundings.
Madeira Desouza’s art is in opposition to traditional notions of masculinity because it emphasizes the complexity and diversity which shape masculinity that can be found in day-to-day human life . By depicting men who may not conform to the heteronormative understanding of masculinity, he highlights the fluidity of gender and sexuality, and how these elements are merely social constructs rather than fixed, unchanging identities.
Moreover, Madeira Desouza’s artwork is influenced by the cultural and societal shifts he witnesses as a gay man living in Las Vegas, where masculinity is often exaggerated and performed for a public audience. One real-life and vivid example of masculinity performances in Las Vegas happens on Fremont Street where male street performers invite visitors to pay $20 for the opportunity to kick them in their balls and stand by to watch how they react.
As an LGBTQ artist, Madeira Desouza’s work is inherently political and socially combative since his art pushes against the binary constraints of gender and queer identity. Mainstream perceptions of masculinity are not what impresses Madeira Desouza one bit.
Madeira Desouza’s art offers an alternative and unconventional representation of masculinity by questioning the traditional notions of who men are supposed to be and why. Through his artwork, he proves the uselessness of the toxic masculinity claims made by feminists and he creates space for diversity and fluidity in the understanding of male gender-specific roles and behaviors. His art encourages critical thinking and challenges viewers to consider their own beliefs and biases that form the basis for perceptions of masculinity. Ultimately, Madeira Desouza’s art presents a strong opportunity to rethink masculinity in a way that is based upon real-world traits that men genuinely show, not what social theorists want us to believe about male behaviors.
His art is a provocative and formidable exploration of male gender, power, and sexuality. He uses complex and controversial themes in ways that defy and poke fun at conventional norms and beliefs, while also raising important questions about representation, objectification, and the physical and emotional harm that men can and do cause other men. As such, the art of Madeira Desouza is an active and ongoing contribution to emerging social considerations of gender, sexuality, and representation in contemporary art and in our society today.