Aaron Smith creates thick, colorful oil portraits based on vintage photographs from the Victorian and Edwardian era, which has long fascinated him. For years he has collected vintage photographs of men of the period. To him, these men represent a masculine ideal, if largely a constructed one. Their bearded faces and distinguished attire are spectacular, while their stiff poses and serious expressions belie an existential vulnerability. In each of Smith’s impasto portraits, woozy colors and aggressive surfaces act as a foil to the sitter’s stoic pose, reflecting a giddy ambivalence to nostalgia. This work has found support from a convergence of interrelated subcultures including Neo-Dandyism, Bear Culture, as well as Beard and Mustache Enthusiasts. The artist shares a desire to revel in the exaggeration of masculinity’s archetypes, mining past forms of male identity in an attempt to free them of any heteronormative constraints.