Summing up a Semester: YI Artists Spring 2013
May 21, 2013

teens watching a presentation

Dave McKenzie discusses his work with YI Artists. Photograph by Correna Cohen

As a YI Artist, I have had the pleasure of working with the artist Dave McKenzie who was our artist in residence for the spring 2013 semester. He has assigned us various projects that required us to use our imagination and creativity to express ourselves. The projects he proposed were intriguing because they were unpredictable and involved a lot of hands-on work as well as mental planning.

These projects were:

— The costume project, where we had to create a costume that would somehow represent a part of ourselves

— The letter project, where we had to write a letter to someone of our choice(preferably someone that we loved) and guide them to it using some kind of map

— The portrait project, where we had to create a portrait that incorporated text

  • black and silver mask

    Saul’s costume is all mask, all the time. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • letters in front of envelopes

    Documentation of the letter project; the original letters and maps are with their recipients. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • hand drawn paintings

    The results of the portrait project hang in the Whitney Studio. Photograph by Correna Cohen

  • students drawing on tables

    YI Artists at work in the Whitney Studio, Spring 2013. Photography by Correna Cohen

Before meeting McKenzie, I was a little narrow minded. I assumed all professional artists were dramatic and over-analytical. As I and the rest of the YI Artists were introduced to McKenzie, we learned about where his motivation and inspiration came from. I applied the kind of thinking that McKenzie shared with us whenever we went to different museums to look at exhibitions. I had never approached a work of art knowing its historical background before, because I had no idea how much of an impact and influence historical context could have on the meaning of the work. At first I thought I was over-analyzing, but then I realized that when I consider all the facts, history, and perspectives of the art, I’m actually gaining a better understanding of it. It turns out that McKenzie foiled my assumptions. He’s an artist with a unique personality and perspective that I came to respect and appreciate. He also loves the color orange, dearly.

The thing I most appreciated during Youth Insights was the fact that we were all able to be ourselves. We are all different personalities and we understand that. It is that understanding that made me feel comfortable—unlike in high school, where you are essentially judged for pretty much everything. Going to exhibitions, creating art, and working with Dave McKenzie was definitely beneficial and I wish that the semester did not have to end.

By Minul, Youth Insights Artist