Scott Wistinghausen, '20, is using the medium of painting to interpret the idea of toxic masculinity and the expectations placed on men.
An art and finance major and midfielder for the Albion College men's lacrosse team, Wistinghausen began to tackle the concepts of masculinity and vulnerability during a directed study under the direction of art professor Michael Dixon during the spring semester in 2019. Inspired by school shootings committed by white, middle class males, Wistinghausen began by asking how he arrived at this place in his life.
"White, middle class male is the demographic I identify with personally and I was curious with how people were raised similar to the same way I was, but they ended up the way they did and that's how this project started," Wistinghausen, a product of Brighton, Mich., and Hartland High School, said.
Wistinghausen created eight paintings during the semester, but he said the focus was more on becoming a better painter.
With support from Albion's Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA), Wistinghausen's work in the studio continued this summer.
However, the real breakthrough came when Wistinghausen was introduced to performance art while serving as a studio assistant for Dixon during a two-week retreat to the Penland School of Craft in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
"Dixon pushed me to address the whole aspect of vulnerability," Wistinghausen said. "He called me out, telling me I was doing a lot of finger pointing and how I was scared to tell my story and how I actually feel. That is when I began to embrace this as a therapeutic process. Even though I want the dialogue to exist between multiple people, these are ways for me to cope with what I have experienced in my life."
The product of Wistinghausen's creative activity this summer has been to create an addition 10 paintings, self portraits which work together to break down toxic masculinity into a series of shorter narratives while he comes to terms with memories from the past.
"I have this duality in my own existence where I have this feminine side, this more passive side, but I'm put in this environment where I'm put in this hyper masculinity, whether that be in Greek life or college lacrosse," Wistinghausen said. "These ideas of repressing emotions through stoicism – like I am not expected to be scared, to show fear, to show empathy while playing lacrosse – or toughness informs my work because I am taking negative experiences that unfairly shape my personality and create imagery that illustrates how I feel when someone is emasculating me, when someone is expecting me to be stoic. I find making paintings very therapeutic.
"The reality is I've been bullied my entire life and I have felt emasculated by people who were 'more manly than me'," he continued. "It's an idea of me being the scapegoat and embarrassing myself in these paintings by being incredibly vulnerable so other people feel comfortable to enter the dialogue.
"My work tends to generate more questions than it creates answers and I want people to think about their childhood, to think about their upbringing and try to decipher what expectations were pushed on them, whether that be by friends, family or institutions and I want them to not conform to those expectations and I want them to wonder how those expectations may have shaped their personality for better or worse.
"A lot of these memories happened almost a decade ago, and I still vividly remember them. What you didn't think was a big deal, but when you think about it, it was a big deal. I want people to take away those things that were brushed off, that they think happen to everybody, that they think are taken too personally, that stuff really does shape individuals. People need to sit back and think about how their words affect other people because often times there is a longer lasting effect than people realize," he concluded.
In previous summers, Wistinghausen worked 12-hour shifts in a factory and he expressed his appreciation for FURSCA and the opportunity to experience what it would be like to be an artist in residence.
"FURSCA provided an opportunity for me to put together a body of work," Wistinghausen said, noting he intends to move on to graduate school and pursue his art career from there. "It gave me time, space and the blessing to work with a professional in the field in Michael Dixon."
Scott Wistinghausen paintings
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Joe and Julie Serra have given a $5 million leadership gift to launch a fundraising initiative to make two dreams a reality. The first is a newly expanded fitness and student activity facility at the site of the current Dow Recreation and Wellness Center. The second is a new or renovated facility for the volleyball, men's basketball and women's basketball teams that currently call Kresge Gymnasium home.
The College is continuing to raise funds in support of both projects. To learn more, call 517/629-0446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.