Artist Sydney Mason with "Trouble" at the Goon Too Soon exhibition. Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

The origin of the word “muse” can be traced back to the ancient goddesses of inspiration, who were revered as the source of wisdom found in poetry, lyrical tunes, and oral traditions that thrived for centuries in ancient Greek society. “Muse” is intrinsically linked to femininity. 

“Beyond Her Eyes: Unmasking the Truth” challenges this historic rhetoric by presenting a fully female-curated show dedicated to celebrating the male muse.

“I think it’s very important that this is the lens through which everyone views art. Often, women are the subjects or muses in art, but it’s interesting that there’s a show by women where males are the muses, and all the different interpretations we have are very beautiful,” said Yewande Kotun Davis, one of the showcased gallery artists.

Artsist Kotun Davis with her piece, When I Grow Up, I want to BE!. Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

The gallery exhibit explores the Black male experience, covering several narratives through each piece. Kotun Davis contributed two pieces, each representing opposing emotional spectrums. Davis shared her piece, which came from when her nephew was around 6 years old and was obsessed with identifying “bad guys,” showing how young Black boys are already aware of threats and dangers around them.

“I know he’s just playing, but I wish he could just enjoy his youth and childhood without identifying threats or being seen as one,” Davis said.

Davis’s second piece, When I Grow Up, I want to BE!, 2023, is an acrylic on canvas depicting her nephew in a state of exuberance against a light blue pastel background.

“I thought a lot about how Black men and Black boys are often portrayed in a negative light,” Davis explained . This piece is a variation of ‘Black boys deserve to grow old,’ so I aimed to create an image that radiated joy and offered space for black boys to feel that joy and understand they deserve it”.

Throughout the history of art, the depiction of nude women has been a recurring and influential theme, symbolizing various aspects of beauty, sensuality, and societal ideals. From ancient Greece to the renaissance, the portrayal of the female form has been ever-present in high art.

“I am expanding my work with the male muse, and a model reached out to me (who will remain nameless) wanting to try nude photography. When he saw how the photos turned out, he loved them. The importance of providing him a safe space is that if a photographer breached his trust, it could harm his career,” said Empress Iyahdae Rose XT, a photographer and artist featured in the exhibit, while describing the backstory of her photo entry, I Understand, 2022.

When conceptualizing the exhibit and its theme, Plushette Ellis, curator, and creative director, noted that women are often viewed as “The nameless muse” and aimed to highlight women while also capturing the essence of the male muse from various perspectives, including abstract, realism, and surrealism.

“Through different themes, you can see adolescence and how artists are inspired by their male muses through music. I have a deep connection with the male muse throughout my creative journey, and many of my mentors have been male muses,” Ellis shared.

The exhibit not only featured veteran artists but also introduced new talents. Sydney Mason, a fine artist originally from Atlanta, now based in North Carolina, began her journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Feeling the absence of color and life in her apartment, she started with small paintings and later challenged herself with realism.

Mason’s piece, Gone Too Soon, 2023, pays tribute to the Atlanta rapper Trouble, who was tragically shot and killed during a home invasion in 2022.

“I’m a big fan of his, and I wanted to commemorate him. My goal is to convey my passion and make people feel something through my pieces,” Mason told The Atlanta Voice.

The exhibit is located at 333 Peters Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30313.

“Beyond Her Eyes: Unmasking The Unseen” will be on display until October 11th, 2023.