A version of this column appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
‘The Manly Show’ celebrates the art of being a man
The inaugural two-day event will showcase visual art, live music, tasty food, goods and services by men and for men. Set for Friday and Saturday at Istvan Gallery, the family-friendly event will feature male artists, artisans, merchants, musicians, restaurateurs, mixologists and service providers, including old-school barbers who will offer straight-razor shaves on site throughout the event.
Just in time for Father’s Day weekend, a new art show is celebrating and exploring the age-old question “what makes a man?”
The inaugural “The Manly Show” will showcase visual art, live music, tasty food, goods and services by men and for men. Set for Friday and Saturday at Istvan Gallery, the family-friendly event will feature male artists, artisans, merchants, musicians, restaurateurs, mixologists and service providers, including old-school barbers who will offer straight-razor shaves on site throughout the event.
“I think it’s important to strengthen our thoughts about men,” said Istvan Gallery owner and operator Stephen Kovash, who organized “The Manly Show” with his friends and fellow gallerists Tony Morton and Steve Boyd.
“You know, they’re run down in the press and they’re stupid in the commercials and all they’re good for is barbecuing and going out and getting killed. So, I wanted to highlight that men are good for more than going off to war or whatever the stereotypical stuff is about men. We’re sensitive people, we’re fathers, we’re single fathers, we’re stay-at-home dads, we’re artists.”
He landed the idea for “The Manly Show” when he got at look at Oklahoma City artist Jeff Stokes’ hand-tied fishing flies. Kovash wanted to build an art exhibition around the tiny lures, and his public relations representative, Kinsey Crocker, recommended he do a guy version of the now-defunct all-woman event “The Girly Show.”
Along with art and music, “The Manly Show” will offer food trucks, a cash bar, a cigar bar, giveaways, tarot card reading, a Saturday afternoon wine tasting and a RSVP-only Friday night tasting of brown spirits like whiskeys, cognacs and scotches from Byron’s Liquor Warehouse. Jazz saxophonist Brent Blount, DJ Josh Heilaman and alt-country outfit Country Strange will perform during the event.
TRADE Men’s Wares, Tree and Leaf Clothing, Ladies and Gentlemen Fine Millinery and other vendors will sell casual apparel, grooming gear, gadgetry and other items that would make great gifts for Father’s Day, which is Sunday.
As a former Marine, Morton, the gallery director of Paseo Originals Art Gallery, said he has experienced firsthand the sterotypical limitations people — especially young people — place on what it means to be manly.
“Someone who comes out of the military is supposed to be Dolph Lundgren. They’re not supposed to be interested in the arts or be cultured at all. … We felt like in looking at younger generations, for whatever reason, there was this strong misconception about what it meant to be a man. Being a man all of the sudden was more about Axe body spray and muscles rather than the character and the actions that I think most people think of as making a man,” Morton said.
“So we started thinking ‘Well, what if we brought together creatives from all these different avenues, from music, from food, from visual art, from craft, from just merchants in the community to kind of show that there’s no one physical thing that determines what a good man is?’ Good men come in all kinds of varieties. And you can be your own man and be a good man at the same time.”
Boyd, exhibit manager and curator of Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, wanted to be involved in a show that focuses on the gentlemanly aspects of manliness. Unfortunately, the notion of a gentleman’s show has been co-opted by strip clubs and topless bars.
“When Stephen came to me and first had the idea of it, the word ‘manly’ stuck a little bit with me, and I told him I wanted to make sure from the onset that it wasn’t about machismo, it wasn’t about any of the negative connotations that can be attached to it, like chauvinism or anything like that. I wanted to make sure this was about being a gentleman and fostering those qualities. And he assured me that’s what he had in mind,” Boyd said.
“I like to think of gentlemen of old, and … it can be a healthy balance of James Bond, but with a lot of Atticus Finch (from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) in there, too. If men acted more like Atticus Finch, it’d be a better world.”
In a fun play on the idea of ladies’ night at bars and clubs, men will get in free to “The Manly Show,” while women will pay a symbolic $1 cover. Or, two-night VIP passes are $80.
Art of man
Along with Stokes’ fishing flies, the show will feature paintings, photography, jewelry, sculpture, glass art and woodwork by about two dozen prominent local male artists, including David Phelps, Joe Slack, Brett McDanel, Dan Garrett, David J. Holland, Rick Bewley, Scott Henderson, Bryan Cook, Eric Wright, Dusty Gilpin and Kjelshus Collins.
While manliness often is associated with youth, Morton said the exhibit will spotlight artists of all ages, from 20-somethings like aerosol muralist Tanner Frady to totem maker LeRoy Schultz, who is in his 70s.
“The Manly Show” also will celebrate the art of the classic shave and a haircut, courtesy Lakeside Barbershop & Shave Parlor.
“One of my favorite smells in the whole world is a barbershop. Whenever I was a kid, I’d go down with my grandfather or my dad … and you’d get your haircut, but we’d stay an hour. It’s open conversation; everybody talks,” Boyd said. “Those guys were my heroes, the guys at the barbershop.”
The organizers are giving event-goers the chance to be heroes, too: Representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters and Positive Tomorrows will be at the event recruiting men to serve as mentors to youngsters in need of positive male role models.
“We definitely want it to be fun. More than anything, I think we wanted to bring a lot of different things together that a guy could approach … and show them that in going any of those directions — from visual art to ribs — you can still be a man,” Morton said.
“It doesn’t really matter which one of those things you can appreciate, you can come to the show and be exactly who you want to be. It’s the character and the action — and you’ll see things in the show that reflect our thoughts on character and action — that really determine who you are.”
“The Manly Show”
When: 6 p.m. to midnight Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Istvan Gallery & Urban Art Complex, 1218 N Western Ave.
Admission: Free to men and everyone younger than 18. Women will pay a $1 cover.