It’s a gloomy time to be growing up, judging by Goosefoot’s annual “Art With a Message” exhibit by students from around Whidbey Island’s three public high schools.
They worry the earth and sky are dying before their eyes. They fear death — from a school shooting, opioid overdose, by their own hand or by a cop.
They wrestle with the choices, decisions and boundaries of school and home while also navigating a no-holds-barred universe online.
“It’s just a fascinating eye into these students psyches, minds and hearts,” commented Peggy Gilmer as she recently strolled the exhibit placed around two floors of the Bayview Cash Store’s Hub Gallery.
“Art with a Message: Teens’ responses to the world around them” is on display until June 9.
Accompanying Gilmer is Julie Glover, a Langley resident known for her activism on behalf of youth. This is the fourth year she’s organized “Art with a Message” and invited public high school students to reveal how society affects their every day lives, ambitions and choices.
“Teenagers need to know adults give a damn about what they think,” Glover said. “So I thought the show could reveal what do teens want adults to know about what is bothering them? Or what excites them, makes them happy?”
Sponsored by Goosefoot, the call for artwork goes out to all high schools in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley. However, students’ school affiliations aren’t listed as a way to avoid any preconceived notions or stereotypes.
Students are held to the same requirements of other artists exhibiting at the Cash Store, one of many properties owned by Goosefoot that is celebrating its 20th anniversary helping South Whidbey community and agricultural causes.
“They have to fill out waivers, donate 25 percent of sales proceeds to a charitable organization and be sure their art is ready to hang,” said Marian A. Myszkowski, director of program and fund development for Goosefoot.
“Goosefoot is pleased to have public space available at the Cash Store to present impactful art shows like this,” she said. “We feel it’s important for artists of all ages and experience in our community to have the opportunity to show their work.”
Cash prizes from $25 to $100 are awarded.
Art teachers encourage students to submit work and some use the show as part of a graded project.
After viewing the show, Richard Evans of Clinton felt compelled to write a letter to the editor of the Record.
“Each young artist should know how much their work and the meaning behind it means to me at the age of 84,” Evans wrote, “and what it means for them to share their awareness with visitors of any age who drop by the gallery.
“It provides an astoundingly vital, uncompromising and alarming, yet hopeful revelation despite the numbing effect of our times. Bravo.”
Concerns that jump out from paintings, collages, sketches, photographs, poetry and ceramic works reveal it’s a much different world than the one that Gilmer and Glover experienced coming of age in the 1950s.
Many show a planet drowning in plastic.
Emily Fiedler used trash collected on the beach to build a three-dimensional orca framed by driftwood in a fish net titled “Detritus.”
“Plastic Explosion” by Jillian Mayne is a beautifully-crafted piece showing a dim reality with a plastic veneer.
A large painting depicts two African-American youth on the way home from school, one lying bleeding on the ground with a white police officer pointing a gun. By Ivy Leedy, it’s titled “Pain.”
Lily Fisher’s expressive painting of a young woman shows different-colored pills swirling around her head above the title, “Overdose.”
A three-dimensional mixed media by Kalaysia Hart called “Consumed” shows tiny spoons, piles of pills and empty syringes with a backdrop of the Grim Reaper picking off addicts like ants.
“It’s just so much harder for kids these days,” Glover said. “My life was like the movie, “Pleasantville.” We all believed cops were our friends, we were the best country, the world was stable and democracy worked.
“Kids grow up today seeing all these institutions crashing and burning so what do they believe in?”
Numerous works of art of work reflect the swirl of emotions inside teens’ heads.
An ink drawing with watered acrylic called “Fireflies” by Makenna Parsell shows inner thoughts of despair.
Another called “Noise” by Jenna Pfeiffer shows a woman holding her head with words — such as failure, loser, not good, stupid, not skinny enough — funneling through her thoughts like moths.
A pen and colored pencil drawing by Alison Papritz titled “Katie” shows a team of surgeons all with the name tag “Katie”opening up a young woman’s brain.
One photograph by Emily Gouge, titled, “Look Closer,” shows a cell phone with a call being placed to “Suicide Hotline.”
“So many have to do with self talk,” Glover observed. “It’s painful to read it and see how many societal messages they’re internalizing around self loathing.”
— “Art with a Message: Teens’ responses to the world around them” is on view until June 9 at Bayview Cash Store, 5603 Bayview Road, Langley.
— Read the Record’s coverage of the 2018 “Art with a Message” exhibit here.