Last Thursday was the final portfolio show for our Arts Ambassadors program. Our six talented young artists presented their exhibition, which they titled “Visions of Change.” The work in the show culminated through weekly after school classes and workshops at the School of Visual Arts. There, the students (juniors and seniors in local high schools) explored visual art as a socially engaged practice. Our education coordinator Zoey Hart led the group through various topics, lessons, and activities that were central to developing their portfolios and understanding the affects that art can have on socially conscious issues. Guest artists and arts professionals also were invited to work closely with each student in order to give them an in depth and direct experience of working in the arts. The final work in the exhibition addressed a myriad of issues that these young artists from the New York metropolitan area felt affected them strongly. The result was a powerful exhibition of both the artists’ concepts and their process. We held a small opening reception for the artists and their family, classmates, and teachers to see the fruits of their hard work! All the documents (press release, wall text, labels) and the installation was done solely by the student artists. Below are each of our Arts Ambassador’s artists statements.
CHANGE OF VIEW
24’’ x 36’’
As a NYC public high school student, I have witnessed situations that are considered wrongful in the eyes of many. These issues don’t only occur within the school environment, but in our communities as well. The people that are most affected by these events are the youth. As teenagers, most of us are prone to take certain actions in order to “fit in” or make us seem acceptable to society. One of these actions is the use of drugs among teens, more specifically the use of marijuana. In today’s day in age, the use of technology is at its peak, which means that the use of social media has almost become an essential factor in our lives. There is nothing wrong with the use of social media generally, the problem lies in how teens choose to use it. There are common posts of teenagers smoking marijuana or messages targeted to the use of the drug. They imply that these are the actions that they need to take in order for society to accept them. After really evaluating this issue, it occurred to me that I should attempt to challenge what is considered “cool” within the high school. I started thinking of the five-year plan. Several of my peers are unsure about their five year plan and are just living for now. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if they practice negative habits now, a successful future isn’t guaranteed. I then spoke to a few students to get their perspective on what success is and what they had to say was reasonable. This is what inspired me to create this piece to show two viewpoints aside from each other to really get teenagers to think. As an artist, I always try to connect with an audience. With this specific piece I feel that my audience is able to relate and hopefully consider choices that can lead them to the right path to a more successful future.
My installation is very important to me as a female in American society. I came into this program knowing that I wanted to make something connected to the feminist movement. After hearing so many stories from female friends about harassment, I decided to create a piece commenting on man’s view of women. This piece highlights how often, when a man looks at a woman, he sees a body before seeing a person. This is evident in the way men talk and act differently around women than their own male friends. In these cases it seems that men don’t understand that women are also people, and should be treated as people, not prizes to be won. In MORE THAN A BODY, The women hold their detached heads, almost as a hunter would hold a prize deer that was just shot for a photo. This also doubles as a mock advertisement. Mixed in with other ads for various products that feature women, this wouldn’t seem very out of the ordinary. It would take attention to be focused on the woman, not the body to see that something is terribly wrong. It is aimed more at men than women, because I would like it to serve as a wakeup call to the behavior demonstrated by the male population. Once it becomes obvious to a viewer that the woman is not alive and her head is separated, it becomes grotesque. Men don’t realize that their actions affect women in this way mentally. With our bodies being used to sell products, or sold themselves, it is detrimental to women’s mental health, and with rape culture in existence, physical health. Misogyny needs to be stopped, and this piece is in an effort to allow men to see the skewed way they look at the women featured in it, and hopefully think about how they have treated women throughout their lives.
THE NEXT STOP IS JAMAICA BAY…
The next stop is Jamaica Bay… explores ecological sustainability, public space, and urban architecture through the fictional module of the Jamaica Bay train station. My interest in NYC ecology began during the summer when I discovered the vital ecosystems existing within the boundaries of the city. A majority of these ecosystems (including Marine Park, Floyd Bennett Field, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Conservancy, and Fort Tilden), however, are spatially and culturally separate from most people’s conception of urbanity and NYC lifestyle. They are often located beyond the reaches of convenient transportation and feel strangely non urban, evoking sensations of otherness, mystique, and oasis. In this way they occupy a cultural limbo; within a city, yet not of a city. While such categorical ambiguity may be romantic, the implications of environmental neglect are unavoidable. While these parks are far from the dense street plans of Manhattan, they are still at a sensitive proximity, threatening the flora, fauna, and salt marshes that characterize the south of Brooklyn and Queens. While they are close enough to be impacted by human disruption, they are often far enough to resemble pastoral oases, and prone to an “out of sight, out of mind” mindset. I believe that as long as these parks are within the city of New York, they should be thought of as such. The idea to appropriate mass transit architecture is an allusion to the elusiveness of parks located beyond the reaches of the MTA subway system. In doing so, I’m forcing viewers to imagine the urban development of an area that houses wildflowers, raptors, and diamondback terrapins. I’m using subway columns, maps, and benches to anchor the “wild side” of the city, creating a spatial cohesiveness that exudes mutual responsibility. By evoking urbanity in sites otherwise characterized by ecological sensitivity, the installation serves as an urgent reminder that city dwellers need to work to preserve and maintain local nature in a manner that is unique and sensitive to the region.
THE BIRTH OF CONFIDENCE
Mixed Media Installation
In her work of art, The Birth of Confidence, Jeanette Aydinian parodies the media’s unrealistic view of women by replacing the iconic Venus in her glory and splendor with everyday women. She was inspired and partially disgusted by the outdated view of “what a traditional woman should be” by media standards. Aydinian took a contemporary approach to an iconic painting, but still used the classic mediums of tempera and canvas to represent just how archaic society’s standards of woman still are.
During my time in the more More Art program, I have created a project known as “You Do You” based on my personal experiences with bullies in school, and how students deal with such activities. I want to create a school environment where students think twice before judging others, and put an end to bullying in my school. The phrase “You Do You” is not reaching out to the victims of bullying, but to the bullies themselves. My project addresses bullies, and the students who have been beaten down physically and emotionally by bullies. It addresses the issue teens all over the world face on a daily basis, bullying & harassment. It reaches out to victims, and It confronts the actual bullies. I want to figure out why they are mean to their peers, and help them realize what they are doing is wrong and hurtful. As an extension of my visual piece, I would like to have several of my peers wear ridiculous outfits, crazy hair, make them look very out of the ordinary and “strange”, not say anything and see how other people react to them. Generally my peers would respond negatively to people perceived as ‘different’. When the intervention happens, I would like my actors to hand these students a poster, card, or have them walk away with a saying on their back that says something along the lines of “Think before you judge. You do You.” Hopefully, causing them to rethink their opinions. Bullying is a very personal topic to me, and It is very important that it be addressed in a way that makes a difference, and moves us one step closer to ending bullying.
Sabrina A. Bertot
OUR HEART SONG
The very moment I was given this assignment, the issue of police brutality jumped right into my head. Inside, I felt the need to let out my opinion about the recent, and past, events that I had experienced with the subject. From the beginning, I felt the matter of this subject had a gray area to it; that not all cops were bad and murders, and that not all people were ones to be mourned over when crossing with the law. But as time went on with this assignment, my vision on the matter changed to a more concrete thought process, one that jogged my memory back a few years to an incident of my own on the subject. The sketches in this film depict the incident that changed my mind on this social project. They tell the story of a woman without a name and an ending without a clear answer, just like a lot of our stories today. We all live in this world, one that doesn’t give us many answers. Rather, this world pushes us to create our own answers, and make results of our own.