Exploring the modern man’s abstract nature of identity through his relationship with his car.

From Acuras to Alfa Romeos, there’s a subset of men on dating apps who shamelessly display themselves next to their automotive pride and joy. Almost as often, it’s a photo of only the car; its owner relegated to the role of photographer documenting its man-made perfection.

What often begins as early-life fascinations as boys, men’s enduring passion for cars goes beyond their function as transportation; they symbolize freedom and adventure. Power and speed. Control and relaxation. Responsibility and reliability. Yes, some women are into cars, but there’s no denying that in our society and pop culture, cars are ubiquitous with manhood.

Why, though?

Why do these traits speak more to men than women?

And why do some men want their romantic prospects to care about their car?

Ask the internet why men love cars, and one of the top Google search results opines that “cars are fixable when a lot of things in a man’s life may not be.”

Where life might bring a man chaos, he has full domain over his vehicle. It doesn’t ask questions or have expectations of him. It is mechanical perfection that can be serviced to his liking. In a patriarchal society that discourages boys and men from showing vulnerability or tenderness, the car is a safe space where they can express emotions they otherwise feel pressured to suppress.

To satisfy my morbid curiosity, I engaged directly with men on Tinder who include pictures of their cars to hear their thoughts – on their love of cars, and how they might be perceived by others.

For the visual component of this project, I entered prompts inspired by my conversations with these men into DALL-E to generate reference photos for several figurative abstract paintings. The pieces ponder the subjects’ self awareness when it comes to dating and attraction, and how the mask of masculinity often hides the true individual beneath.

Images from Autonomous exhibition at the James Black Gallery on Sept 29, 2023

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The DALL-E generated images that were used as references in this project, and some additional ones that didn’t make the cut.

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