Boys Don’t Cry: An Interview with Eleanor Caudill

*Eleanor Caudill is a contributing artist for the Oakland Arts Review‘s Volume 8, which features her painting Boys Don’t Cry. Caudill is a freshman student at the University of Louisville majoring in Studio Arts. She has always made art, and knew it’s what she wanted to go into for college and in the future. 

What inspired you to paint Boys Don’t Cry?

It was a part of a portfolio about gender, and different experiences with gender expression. This particular piece was inspired by the difficult feelings of being trans-masculine, or even a cisgender boy, and not feeling allowed to cry. Feeling the need to conform to society to be seen as masculine can lead to the repression of feeling emotions, or crying, since boys are seen as weak if they cry. 

Can you describe what the process was like for you as you developed ideas for and painted the piece? 

I first went through a sketching stage, from trying to figure out an idea to then solidifying the design for the final. I made many small thumbnail sketches until I was happy with the idea of Boys Don’t Cry, and then made a larger thumbnail sketch to map out the facial expression I needed as well as the colors! Then all that came was taking the reference photo and trying to paint it with my understanding of realism mixed with accentuated concepts of color and feeling. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to make purple a prominent color in the painting?

Purple is a mix of pink and blue, the colors most associated with societal gender. Pink for girls and blue for boys. In using purple, I hoped to symbolize this grey area that exists between masculine expression and female expression, in this case a fight between gender identity and a stereotypically female expression of emotion (crying!).

What do you hope your audience will take away with them after observing and thinking about Boys Don’t Cry?

I hope people will see the conflicting emotions I tried to portray in the face and think a little more about how they police others. I especially hope they will see transgender people and support them in their feelings, instead of enforcing some sort of gender role on them in order to make them a “real boy” (or girl or nonbinary person). 

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