This weekend, a new exhibition of work by teen artists, curated by teen artists, opens at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Calling their show "Origins of the Self," the museum's Teen Council placed an open call for works that answer the questions, "What is the real you? Where is the real you? How do you define the real you in a constantly evolving landscape?" Of course, these are questions we all ask ourselves all the time, but these artists' works are brutal in their vulnerability, mature in their construction, and, sometimes even a little funny.
See works from the show below, and see what some of the artists had to say.
The Artist Who Plays With Toys
Alyssa Collier Reaches Back Into the Toy Box: "Every single item is from either my bedroom or my bathroom. I just went rummaging through to find anything that's baby pink. I'm always keeping my eyes open for affordable things that I can photograph. Objects for kids just make me feel really happy. A couple of the items in the picture are gifts from my boyfriend, along with some letters from junior high. I try not to be too sentimental of a person, but I can't help it sometimes."
Her Favorite Works Are Accidents: "I feel very powerful when I plan a photo shoot, and the end product comes out pretty close to how I imagined it. However, that doesn't happen very often, and I've found that I have several strong pieces that were either happy accidents or spur-of-the-moment shoots. It's important to recognize those and be proud of them."
The Artist Who Doesn't Think Your Racist Joke Is Funny
Andrea Dolz-Alcala Turns Racist Words Into Material: "Every phrase in the background was something that was said to me in real life and online. The idea for this came when one of my friends—who always says some low-key racist things, even though they claim to be a social activist—told me, 'You're not like those other Mexicans; you know how to take a joke.' In my head I was like, 'Of course I laugh at everything. Do you realize how much crap I would get if I voiced my thoughts?'"
She Doesn't Want to Be Easily Defined: "I don't think that you can look at my work and think to yourself, 'This was made by a female, Mexican, moved to the United States at the age of two, has five siblings, parents who have never been divorced, loves Kanye West, loves Damien Chazelle, looks up to Kim Kardashian.'"
The Artist Who's OK Feeling Lost
Sunnie Liu Knows There Isn't One American Identity: "Children of immigrants are cultural wanderers. Second-generation Americans lose their native culture, but gain American culture. Wandering through this cultural shift, they feel lost, not sure which culture is 'theirs.' Based on their parents' arduous experiences, some children of immigrants conclude that the American Dream is just a dream. Yet, most cannot bear to give up hope, pursuing the American Dream anyway. In the process of making this, I discovered and realized my new feelings about my identity as a second-generation American."
The Artist Who Wants You to Look Depression in the Face
Emma Perez Likes to Be Frank About Mental Health: "This is a photograph of my younger sister, Alexis. I titled it Dead for a couple of reasons. The first goes back to November 27, 2015, when I attempted to commit suicide. I can refer back to how I was then and see how much I have improved. That always helps to make my day just a little bit better. Also, the expression on her face is what you might see on someone who is walking around with that hole in their chest that comes with depression. I wouldn't say it's an image that explains the majority of my character, just a small aspect of who I am."