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I am sixteen and in my junior year at the Bronx High School of Science. I love art history and criticism as well as four-field anthropology. Interdisciplinary studies have always held my interest, particularly social theory due to its broad applicability to many fields. I grew up in Lower Manhattan and academically excel at history, literature, and biology. Art history is appealing because it is a component of social history and social history is part of cultural anthropology.
The Youth Insights program was appealing to me because of writing and art. My interest in critical theory drew me to the program as a way to explore contemporary art in the context of a broader social examination. The writing track also seemed appropriate because writing and art are two different disciplines and their intersection is intriguing.
Other experiences in the arts include a class with Rika Burnham at the Frick Collection. It cemented my sense of art as part of history and also heightened my aesthetic sensibilities. These tendencies often leave me bewildered when confronted with contemporary art, although on a semiotic level, contemporary art is sometimes more engaging. The dissemination of ideas in art is not unique to the contemporary realm, but it is more imbued with ideas relevant and accessible to the public. Though much of the public may find contemporary art inscrutable, it requires a lower threshold in terms of historical background. While anyone can see the musculature of David, fewer people will identify his contrapposto pose or note the similarities to Praxiteles. The idea of a new tradition, or one that is under construction so to speak, is what is so exciting about today’s art. Contemporary art is mystifying to many, yet comparatively a deeper understanding of it can be drawn more easily than from an Old Master painting which requires detailed history of other artists both before and after.
Simultaneously my viewpoint is weighted by the legacy of these Old Masters, and I often find myself questioning the legitimacy of today’s art. Certainly there is an element of rash commercialism, especially in artists like Damien Hirst, whose stunts are famous but perhaps erstwhile. I find a certain reliability in the excellence of artists like Jan Vermeer and Nicolas Poussin, while others like Pablo Picasso are so prolific and world changing that their greatness is also undeniable. Moreover I often find myself attracted to the rebels of the art world, artists like Gustave Courbet, Paul Cezanne and J.M.W. Turner among others. Those who challenge the establishment advance the institution of art. Today I am particularly enamored with Julian Schnabel, Julie Mehretu, and of course, the modern art world’s living giant, Jasper Johns.