Per usual, before I exit my car, I adjust the rearview mirror, ask myself…” Which face shall I wear today?” Lipstick. Today, I wear lipstick. Pink Rosette. I apply; exit the car; and head to the Museum. The front door is heavy. I pick through the complimentary brochures and climb the stairs.
I am alone; though, I can hear a tour guide educate his followers on the floor below.
|ArtReach: Vashon through a Lens, installation view. Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, May 17-August 18, 2019. Photo: Dusty Kessler.|
It’s a handful of photographs by Vashon High Schoolers. All in a row along one wall. Beautiful souls caught by the lens of a camera.
The photography on view, this photography, is a partnership between CAM (Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis) and Vashon High School and led by St. Louis-based teaching artist Tiffany Sutton. According to the CAM pamphlet, the exhibit is a collection of the selfie composed of “deliberate creative choices.” The exhibit is an exploration into the “multitude of personalities” each student, each photographer, each and every person has. In that we can relate. However, for me to know or compare my experiences to these souls would futile. I don’t know.
Yet, here I stand in front of a photo of a girl. She wears a pinkish head wrap and a military uniform. “Do you see the child inside? Do you see my wild side?” I love the contrast between what I assume is her everyday attire or the attire of her heritage and the uniform of America. Two in one. I want to know more. More about her and more about Vashon High School. I’ll have to research that. I read the card. Her name is Kayla Green. I want to know more about who made the creative choice in this portrait/selfie. Was it the subject’s, Kayla’s, or the photographer’s, Nicholas Allen’s?
I move on. It’s another image of Kayla. Military gear sans head wrap. The next…Kayla in street clothes only. She had a read head scarf. Bright almost neon orange nails. Very long. “A woman who hides her fears, holds in her tears?” Both of these photos were take by Allen as well. I want to know more of the Kayla I see. All three of the Kaylas I see.
|Jamijna Westbrook. Donyae, 2019. Digital Photograph. Courtesy the artist.|
The next photo I see is one of Allen. Nick in Blue. It, however, was taken by Kayla. The subject has become the photographer. Nick has cleverly been divided between light and shadow, hinting at contrasting personalities. “Can you see my dreams? Can you hear my screams?” Was the creative play on light and dark his decision or hers? Who chose blue? I want to know.
Backing up, I examine all the photos. All are intriguing. Creative. Thought provoking. I am no longer alone. A crowd has formed. My thoughts are now being influenced by what others say; therefore, it’s time to leave.
I reach for the door. It is still heavy. I exit. Now outside, I turn back. “I feel as if I am on the outside, lookin in. Look at me…who do you see?” I check my reflection in the window. My lipstick is gone. “Who do you see?”
“I have many faces.” Funny [to me] that the author is unknown, although the poem can be found at www.poetryoflife.com
“ArtReach: Vashon High School Vashon through a Lens” is on view through August 18, 2019 at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO. 314/535-4660. Gallery hours are W, Sat. & Sun, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Th-F 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Free & open to the public.
Natalie Avondet is a St. Louis-based artist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism/Advertising with a Minor in Psychology from University of Missouri's School of Journalism. Natalie's early career was in commercial advertising in the Midwest and Los Angeles. Art is a lifelong passion and she began seriously painting and exhibiting in galleries while in Los Angeles. Determined to pursue her artistic career, she returned to the Midwest and since then has exhibited in Kansas City, Los Angeles and Saint Louis. Her work is represented locally by Grafica Fine Art Gallery. You can reach out to Natalie through her blog.