For every 30-year-old who still hasn't figured out what they're going to be when they grow up, there's a 15-year-old who already knows exactly who they are and what they want to be doing, drumming their fingers as they wait for the adults in charge to just get out of the way, already.
Clara Polito has been running her own vegan cupcake business, Clara's Cakes, since she was 13, so now that she's 15, why the hell not curate a gallery show?
It might even seem ageist to make so much of the fact that the artists in this group show all have yet to register to vote, were it not for the exhibition's title, “Teen Creeps,” which invites attention to the fact. So we must make much of it.
“I'm not going to wait until I'm 18 to start my career and learning about the things I find interesting,” Polito says. For parents, “not yet” is sometimes the right advice, but for a nascent artist, there is a deep satisfaction in simply being able to replace bit-champing with doing.
The works, like any assemblage of teenagers, are uneven, but not wildly so. Clearly, there are developmental differences among these artists, with some clearly in first flower, and some displaying a stunning level of assurance and craft. Seeing the disparities is a reminder of the high school experience: Those who've matured at a reasonable pace must endure being shoved in the same room with classmates who stubbornly remain frozen in the pigtail-pulling stage, day after aggravating day. But in a happy accident, the show's somewhat immature, vaguely ham-fisted entries dovetail so ingeniously with the more accomplished works to form a synopsis of everything that's difficult about teendom. You're ready, oh so ready — or you're not.
Isela Maxinne, 16, writes simply in her brief program bio, “I just picked up drawing three months ago, and this has been the best three months of my life, so far.” Eloise Hess, 17, by contrast, details her fascination with female hysteria diagnoses of the late 1800s, and how this now-defunct categorization was used to force women into electroshock therapy and insane asylums.
One the show's most evocative scenes is a series of watercolors by artist Lulu White, entitled Memories I Don't Remember. Trying to make sense of childhood, White's drawings are the strongest example of another theme that runs through the show as a whole — the politics of identity. Coming to grips with a self-concept is the central task of adolescence, and White does so by re-examining and reimagining fragments of her past in the form of family photos, hand-recreated to highlight the sense of bafflement and uncertainty that pervades much of early childhood. Since many of the photos White recreates were taken by her parents either before she was born or when she was very young, the memories aren't hers, yet are still an integral part of her sense of place and of having grown up — at least to the age of 17.
White explains that both of her parents are artists — her mother a cartoonist and her father a painter — and says, emphatically, “They've never not been supportive.”
If only every teenager could grow up that way.
“Teen Creeps” is at Home Room Gallery, 3121 Beverly Blvd. homeroom101.org
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