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Youth Insights

Fall 2020
With Erin Jane Nelson

Below are artist statements from participants in the Youth Insights Artists Thursday course with Artist in Residence, Erin Jane Nelson. These YI Artists learned about unconventional art materials, craft practices, and other processes, which include ceramics, beadwork, and mixed media. They also considered the ways in which artists experiment with materials. They then used found and recycled materials to create their own mixed media sculptures and two-dimensional artwork. 


Made using wire, paper mâché, clay, and paint, "Dust to Dust" is a fantasy sculpture depicting a dying mushroom creature resting in the fetal position. The title "Dust to Dust" refers to two main concepts. First, the idea that nature lives in a cycle, plants especially. Plants rise from the earth and when they die, they return to the earth, and throughout their life cycle, plants retain their beauty, bringing joy to death. The second idea that the title "Dust to Dust" portrays is the human life cycle. We as humans stay in this fetal position until we are ready to be born, and we curl our bodies through our life into this position to imitate the comfort we were given in our mother's womb. For this human-plant creature to die in this position brings a certain purity and peacefulness to a tragic end-of-life.


For this piece I combined real pressed flowers and fluffy felt fictional looking flowers into one work. The felt flowers look very fictional and artificial and contrast the real flowers and leaves. With this piece I was demonstrating the artificialism that is creeping into nature in the 21st century, and how the beauty of nature still shines through. Materials: felt, celluclay, paint, plush stuffing, flower pot, pressed flowers.


Dress made from Ankara, plastic bags, and trimmings. This dress was inspired by my mum. She is a seamstress, and inspires me to pursue art and fashion. She also taught me to take what I have and make the best of it, which is why I choose to use plastic bags.


Cerebestio is a mixed material stuffed doll mainly composed of cut sweater. Cerebestio is decorated with clay teeth, button eyes, pompom charms, rainbow feathers, and a bone ornament. The insides of the doll are stuffed with a ripped up shirt, a pompom for the head, and colorful plastic string for the hair. Cerebestio also has fuzzy pipe cleaners on his arms for slight movement.  

Cerebestio, a latin jumble meaning Brain Beast, is a creature from the mindscape. The mindscape, his home, is a dimension that resides within the brain’s imagination in the form of a constructed landscape of the conscious. A lot of my art drives inspiration/energy from my own mindscape. Cerebestio was made to represents the playful and energized emotions that are commonly associated with a child. I wanted to capture something childlike and use the generalized idea of what people visualize in their head as child art and reinvent it. I have always had this personal goal of not letting this collective idea of what adulthood should look and be like because I feel that as humans get older, we go blind to the magic and mystery that really lies at the core of our existence and what it means is something that I never want to stop exploring. I don't want to box myself into always thinking or being one way. I might have a main "way" but there will always be a changing influence.  


Materials Used: torn nylon tights, comic book cutouts, newspaper cutouts, acrylic paint, and Mod Podge 

With such broad assignment guidelines, I was able to truly experiment with different mediums than what I'm used to working with. I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and work on a larger scale with paint. Normally, I work on smaller canvases or pieces of paper and shy away from paint, which caused a bit of a challenge for me. My initial plan was to sew a bunch of scrap fabric to a canvas, but decided to change it up a bit. I thought it looked pretty cool to stretch the tights across two corners of the canvas and worked around that. I began collaging (which is something I do quite often), and felt it needed more. With the swoopy looking tights, I wanted to create more movement within my piece. This led me to create vertical and horizontal lines across my canvas. Already there was so much color, but I liked how the pink and green looked together. Finally, I felt that the middle of the canvas was too empty, so I pasted images I liked from newspapers. I rummaged through garbage to find them actually. I wanted the newspaper cutouts to look a bit transparent, so I actually put avocado oil on them. It lifted some of the ink and made it look pretty cool. In the end, I learned that challenging myself could actually result in a fun and interesting piece, such as Mishmash. 


A petite, almost closet like room just off the top floor of an antique store in Kingston, New York. This is the location where I would collect the post cards that inspired this piece. I knew that I had wanted to do something ephemeral, because I am deeply interested in the human experience and the significance that remains in the objects that we leave behind. Although, it was not until I stumbled upon a box of used and seemingly abandoned post cards from the 60's, that the idea came to me. "Letters to a Friend" - my ephemeral piece inspired by the work of Erin Jane Nelson, depicts the scenes that were narrated on each of the three post cards. I used wooden clementine boxes to create artistic depictions of what the senders of these post cards had written. Each post card had an elaborate Mid-Century design of where the post card had been sent from, but I decided it would be more interesting only to show the words on the back of the boxes and leave the imagery up to my own interpretation. That way, it would seem as though you had gazed into the image on the postcard, and you were actually there.  While I was creating the piece, my mind flew around in a constant sense of wonder. Who were these people? Where are they now? By the end of the process I felt as though I was gazing into the perspectives of three people who I had never met before. The experience was certainly a transformative one, for I had ended this project knowing more about well as the lives of "Madeline", "Denise", and "B". 


In the art making process, using art materials such as markers, fabric, plastic, magazines, and pen were used. This class helped me develop a deeper idea on different materials and incorporate my ideas on paper. 

I was always surrounded by powerful women in my life who have left an impact on me. I decided to make an art piece of women who represent so many things in life. I made this personal and used materials like string and magazines that were gifted to me from important women in my life. I was inspired by the song "Almighty Heat" written by Mamalarky, it reminds me of the color yellow, which is why I incorporated it in my art. I believe women have fought hard in their life, and deserve more recognition, I decided to make art out of respect for them. 


I like to experiment with things a lot, especially in my art. I decided I was going to step out of my comfort zone and try screen printing for this project. Its way more tedious than I expected, and I failed a couple of times along the way, but failure is part of the learning process!  


My lily Pad was inspired by the creek I went to everyday after school as a kid. My piece includes claw marks made by a toothpick. The leaves represent leaves that have fallen onto the lily pad. And the colors represent the green for leaves and the purple for the gloomy shadow of the dark night. My lily pad was shaped from a plate that I had laying around. My idea sprung from taking a walk recently and noticing the same creek I use to visit every day as a kid. The lily pads were so colorful and peaceful as they floated that I had to recreate one. They made me feel calm and relaxed and peaceful.    


This artwork is theatrical yet reflective of our life in 2020. It is a satirical piece, while also drawing from what I think is aesthetically pleasing. The artwork is also comprised of stationary cards, nylon masks, and mesh.


The original intention with my piece was to create a carpet, intensely inspired by the art of Persian rug weaving.  I’ve always been fascinated with the dual nature of rugs. Functionally, they provide insulation within a home, but aesthetically they contribute vibrancy and artistic value. Given that I don’t have a huge loom, I looked up at-home rug making techniques and came across rugs made by weaving and braiding fabric scraps. I gathered old clothing and began weaving and braiding, but as I worked, my creation lacked the form of a rug. I decided to expand on my idea, sew the weaved pieces together, and create a belt.  

I think that belts have functionality only in certain situations, and the belt that I created is more of a fashionable accessory than something that holds up pants. I removed the functional aspect that came with the original intent, but it could still be argued that there is functionality in reusing scraps of fabric and giving them a new purpose. The decorative intention remains in full, adding a vibrancy to the human form.  


With Lilith, I was hoping to capture a sense of elegance and beauty, along with the inherent creepiness that I find comes along with dolls. The doll is made with polymer clay sculpted around a wire armature so that it is poseable. The head was meant to vaguely resemble a rabbit skull, an animal that is typically thought of as cute and unassuming made unsettling.


As an artist, I love to use nature as an inspiration in my pieces. My work incorporates various materials and colorfully painted leaves on a tree made of recycled paper. The purpose was to express the excitement that is present throughout the natural world and how it is a fun place to explore. The branches of the tree are spread outwards indicating a welcoming motion. The different strokes represent unpredictability, and the random materials show how you never know what you'll find in nature. The name "Celebration" arises from how much I feel nature should be celebrated because of its beauty. It plays a key role in my art, and feeds my curiosity and excitement in my daily life.


This mixed media piece is made of a variety of materials including newspaper clippings, fabric, denim, net from vegetable packaging, watercolor, block printing ink, and handmade paper. The piece is a representation of how the materialistic aspects of the world can destroy the plant. Consumer culture is massive in today’s world and all most all of it contributes to the climate crisis in some way. If we don't act now, we'll never be released from the grasps of global warming.


This art piece is made out of papier-mâché, nail polish, trims of printed photos, peanut buttercup wrappers, beads, and the sole of a shoe. It is an image of a woman walking down the streets of Manhattan to her office. Her foot juts out from the page as if she’s walking into your world. The sole of her shoe represents the sole of the city and the history of where each New Yorker has stepped before. The same gum that sticks to the bottom of her shoe has been walked on by many others, she carries what each of us carry as well. She is a working woman in NYC, the typical person seen riding the NYC subway. Since quarantine I have not ridden the subway, and I miss the diverse faces I would always see, all alone together, and many of them headed to work. The working woman always seemed to provide me comfort when I felt uneasy while riding the subway. Feeling the feminine presence in city life and watching all sorts of people strut down the city streets in fashionable outfits are some of the things I appreciate and miss most about pre-pandemic city life.  


After learning about different artists that were featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art, I was inspired to create something outside of what I would normally make. In order to create this piece, I used many different mediums such as thread, old comic books, and polaroids. The polaroid emulsion lift that is included in this artwork was made with images of my home. I took the images on a 1983 OneStep 600 polaroid camera that I found at an estate sale a couple of months ago. The other polaroids that are included in this image are from the 1970s. I used my sewing machine to add texture onto these. The comic book clippings that are included in this collage are from my dad’s collection from the 1990s. Including all of these different aspects helped me to experiment with combining different types of art that I am interested in like sewing and photography and assisted me in giving these old pieces a new life.


This piece is an exploration of the uninterrupted feeling of disconnection from everything that used to make sense. A wall that divides my imagination and my working hands is a part of that feeling-so after a period of frustration with art I recognized that art is still a reflection of the artist no matter the state of the artist. I used clay, thread, cardboard, charcoal, paper, acrylic, 35mm film and family heirloom.


This is a sculpture composed of found objects which symbolizes present-day America. Foremost, our country is still largely divided by wealth and power. This is symbolized by the contrast of the tall neat stacks of shiny nickels against the random collection of tarnished pennies. In addition, our country is not only struggling with the pandemic of COVID-19, but it is also being ravaged by a rapid rise in depression, suicide, and drug addiction, which is given context with the blue hospital mask, the empty pill container, as well as the significant placement of the large blue pills. The five-dollar bill bears the image of Abraham Lincoln and harks back to the fracture of our country during the Civil War. Although we are not in a civil war currently, there are significant and numerous signs that we are treading dangerously close to one. The “I voted” sticker reminds us that we must cherish our democracy and be vigilant of the forces that try to supplant it. Finally, the Joker card reminds us that our authority as the world leader is being questioned and challenged.


This artwork represents how life can thrive if we allow it to. One half of the canvas is filled with pollution, death, and city buildings. There is no color, but only black and white. On the other half, it is filled with color and life. The tree has started to blossom, and plants have started to grow. The city is overrun by plants.


I based my piece off the isolated world we are currently living in. I was inspired by the limited connection many of us share through Zoom or modern technology. It is easy to see someone's face through a screen, maybe even get a brief glimpse into the back of their room, but it is extremely difficult to understand what is happening in a person’s life. The separation of the picture frame and the glass is symbolic of this detachment many of us feel. The use of bright colors and a variety of shapes is to emphasize the idea that there is often so much happening in our lives beyond the computer screen. Over the course of this program, I experimented with materials I have not used before. I created the face with clay, paints, and fabric scraps, going on to use wires to add detail. This process has allowed me to think deeply and critically about my fragile virtual connections and channel these ideas into creativity and art making.


"Tree of Life" was made from cut out pieces of magazines, candy and snack wrappers and watercolor on paper. With a large tree in the center and circles of garbage on the outside, this piece represents how our lives are so dependent on nature, however we treat it like garbage and are suffocating it slowly. Climate change is a threat to our world and we are the only ones to blame, with all of the manufacturing as well as the littering that in the end piles up and now threatens the very thing we rely on to live. I wanted to bring light to the severity of the subject and portray it using various materials, as an embodiment of what we are facing.


“Death Mask of a Sea Monster” uses a gothic sense of dark romanticism to convey the tragic loss of ocean life due to pollution. The loss of this life is a loss of our collective understanding of our world, and the sculptural epitaph of a deceased sea monster evokes the creatures we have yet to discover and never will. The sculpture was created with paper pulp and glass bottles found on beaches, creating a warning of ocean degradation with the very materials that cause it. The mourner that holds the death mask is dressed in a wedding dress reminiscent of coral. This grieving widow holds the image of their spouse with the sorrow of human loss, reflecting the similar family structure and social ecosystems to us which animal life functions in. Their claws mirror the biological designs of butterflies and fish and are painted with versions of the Rorschach test, a test using patient interpretation of figures, as an invitation for the viewer to determine which species the widow embodies. The headpiece of a setting sun wrapped in red cord gives the piece a sense of religious observance, particularly that which is ritualistic, and parallels the cycle of life which is often practiced by the philosophies that encourage empathy for nature and an intense connection to forms of life besides our own. “Death Mask of a Sea Monster” asks the viewer to empathize with a life they cannot understand and immortalizes the cost of their refusal. 


For these art pieces I wanted to illustrate expression and experiment with different materials and techniques. Each piece tells story whether it's a cousin doing a little cousin’s hair, or even more personal. The materials used in these pieces are acrylics, paper for the collage, and charcoal. Each material helped me become more confident with outcome with my work. Even if it did not come out perfect, the effort and improving is what counts.

  • A painting of a woman looking down.
  • A painting of a woman in front of a mosaic-like background.



A 30-second online art project:
Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Sky/World Death/World

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