My name is Elizabeth. I’m from Manhattan and I go to the Brearley School. I’m not sure I can fully write who I am yet or what my hopes and dreams are, as I don’t think I’ve thought about those questions thoroughly enough to provide a definite answer. I have become increasingly interested in art since I was a toddler looking at the floor of the Metropolitan, and I have since completed a few of my own paintings. I’d love to experience working beyond painting and drawing, maybe into the third dimension. I came to Youth Insights to experience the inner workings of a museum, as museums are the main resource I’ve had for learning about artists. I was also drawn to the idea of meeting and talking to people from New York with different experiences than me, as a small school can limit how many types of people you know. My favorite artists include Bruce Nauman, Marlene Dumas, and Lucian Freud. I really love reading about artists and art movements throughout time and coming to my own conclusions about the inner workings of a piece of art.
YI Artists worked with artist in residence LaToya Ruby Frazier to create photographs that documented their changing neighborhoods, selves, and a variety of public spaces in New York City. They examined the effects of advertising on society and the ways that individuals make every day choices. Teens also watched and discussed excerpts from the documentaries Century of the Self and the British series 7 UP to further understand the links between propaganda, advertising, and the ways in which social class affect an individual’s future.
This session of the Youth Insights Program has made me consider the social constructs associated with race, class, and gender. YI has given me insight into how other teenagers—as well as artist-in-residence LaToya Ruby Frasier—think about and respond to these constructs. I had not previously understood the direct relationship between social constructs and singular images, from photo journalism to art, and how images read differently to people of different backgrounds. Individually, my photographs document the way I see my life, but when hung together, they suggest a narrative that I didn’t mean to imply—a narrative with which I feel unfamiliar.
For example, to me, the photograph of my doorman, Mohammed, represents my personal discomfort in a higher social class. But to others, this photograph may read as an image of pride in the spoils of a higher class. In contrast, the image of an uncertain alley that exists behind my school represents, to me, a place of comfort in which to hide from the stress of the world—and yet, I realize that this photograph can easily be read by others as a place of danger or of discomfort.