Nicholas Grider is a Milwaukee-based artist and writer who has had recent gallery shows of his photo work in Los Angeles and published work in numerous print and online fine arts periodicals. I first saw his “Men in Suits” photographs at the Portrait Society Gallery here in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, and I was intrigued enough by the premise and thoughtful concept behind them to make some inquiries with the artist himself about them.
Please tell me a little about the ongoing project “Men in Suits” and what it is about.
I started the project in 2004, and the goal then was first to do the opposite of what a lot of art photographers were doing–informal photos of young people–and also to make up a set of rules for portrait making that allowed you to compare and contrast the men. I chose men in suits because of long-standing interest in masculinity and what that looks like in our culture.
They say clothes make the man, but what is your take on that old adage?
I’d say there’s truth to it because, with suits in particular, your suit itself plus how, when and where you wear it broadcasts to people a lot of information about your status, profession, wealth, and personal tastes.
Do you think what we wear is a reflection of our reality or what we’d like to project?
I think clothing is more about projecting or performing someone you want to be seen as than about reflecting whom you are, but both are true to a certain extent. For most of the men in these photos the style and color of suit (and shirt and tie) is designed to project an identity that a man needs to look like he lives up to, at least at work.
Do you see clothing as a metaphor for armor or men doing battle in someday?
I’m not sure about armor but I think the suit is definitely a kind of civilian uniform–even given great variety a suit is still a suit, a relatively conservative outfit that most adult men own and that is attached to certain professions (like lawyer or businessman) or certain events (like weddings and funerals). It has the effect of making men more similar to each other, which is why details like the choice of shirt and tie and things like pocket squares and tie bars are there to reflect individuality.
What are you working on currently?
Recently I’ve been working on near-abstract geometric work that explores a gray area between painting, photography and graphic design, and I’m starting a new project photographing spaces where men gather–locker rooms, boxing rings, construction sites and so on.
Where can people see your work?
People can see my work at my website www.nicholasgrider.com or blog nicholasgrider.wordpress.com and opening in fall I’m having a solo show of the geometric work at The Portrait Society in the Third Ward. Some of the images have been comissioned by Harley’s and can be seen hanging in the store www.harleys4men.com.
To see more of his amazing images click on the Gallery page at www.fashionfarmboy.com.