By Teenagers for Teenagers is a set of exhibitions of works by participants of A4L’s ArtWorks Internship in the Arts for High School students, under the guidance of renowned designer and Teaching Artist Luis Valenzuela. By Teenagers for Teenagers Volume 2 will feature 2D (drawing, painting) and 3D (sculpture, installation, textile) works by ArtWorks interns, made throughout eight weeks of sessions held at the Lewis Arts Studio in Coconut Grove. The 11 interns hired attend Coral Gables Senior High, South Miami Senior High School and Sports Leadership and Management Charter School.
“Interns all have been thinking and overthinking about their mental health issues for a long time,” noted Valenzuena, who also led the first iteration of By Teenagers for Teenagers in March 2019, which included an intern-led roundtable discussion with community leaders about the issues touched upon in the exhibition. “During our sessions, they realized they are just dealing with a change in perspective in life …what a privilege to be able to guide them in the process.” The internship’s timing was crucial for almost half of the interns, graduating High School within a week of the culminating exhibition.
Through the ArtWorks Internships in the Arts program, A4L hires high school students (aged 14-18) who have an interest in the arts to work with professional visual or performing artists to make art, as well as attend workforce skill development workshops on networking, resume writing, and public speaking, among other topics. Interns receive college advisement and are paid for their work in the program.
This installment of the ArtWorks Internship Program is generously supported by the Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation.
Isabella – 10th Grade, Coral Gables Senior High
This piece is composed of a one shoulder gown and a cape, which send a message of self love and going against changing oneself for societal norms. The use of different colored and sized phrases are meant to represent the fact that as humans, we are not all the same and we need to start appreciating that as a whole.
Society has never failed to cast out those who tend to go away from the status quo and themselves. I intend for this piece to represent those who feel like society won’t accept them if they are simply themselves. Especially in today’s day and age, in which the world is finally beginning to accept those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, it is important that everyone feels loved and accepted for who they are.
I used raw canvas for this piece as a symbol of one’s raw feelings and true self. The scraps of fabric on the lower part of the town are intended to represent roots which are a reminder to stay true to oneself while still branching out. This brings me to the one shoulder design. This is aimed to apply the idea of branching out and trying new things, as well as being bold while doing so.
One may notice that there are no seams on the dress. The purpose of that was to truly develop the concept of an untouched, raw feeling that should be embraced rather than shut down.
Juliana – 11th Grade, Coral Gables Senior High
“The grass is green right where you’re standing!”
In my piece, there are two scarecrows presented; one of them is on an elevated plane above the other. One has nice and clean clothing and carries many shiny objects, which attract the crows that are destroying the grass around it. The second one is dustier than the first, and doesn’t have anything shiny, thus being able to prevent crows from destroying the grass around it. My intention for this piece is to represent how having certain things doesn’t mean you’re better than others. The crows represent problems that everyone has to go through in their daily life; the first figure represents a person who possesses many shiny and expensive objects, and is completely surrounded by crows. Many people believe they are better than others solely because of their social status or the items they possess, although this isn’t the case. Craving the nicest things creates problems such as never feeling satisfied with what you already have, or constantly needing to feel better than others. I wanted to convey that you don’t necessarily need what everyone else has or wants through the second figure. It is not surrounded by as many crows as the first, showing that it leads an easier life. It doesn’t attract much attention to itself and doesn’t meddle in things that don’t concern it, such as popularity.
Shirley – 12th Grade, Coral Gables Senior High
I created this intricate piece through the use of black ink pens on paper. I used a wave-like pattern that when done continuously, creates a sort of illusion or distortion. The purpose of the medium and technique I chose were to illustrate a state of overthinking, or create the feeling of overwhelming thoughts. I wanted to convey this sense of entrapment, and yet freedom through the repetitive design. The contrast revealed in the piece further portrays these feelings and intentions. The wave-like pattern resembles a diverse thought process, while the lack of color provides the darker side of overthinking. I wanted the hand portrayed in the piece to be symbolic of the overwhelming thoughts reaching for the human mind. I made the human figure to be looking outwards, facing the opposing side of the hand to reveal a sense of hope or freedom from these darker thoughts.
“As you’re reading this, I already over thought my decisions”
The inspiration for my work derives from the universal concept of overthinking. Personally, I see overthinking as a sea in which I keep drowning. I put so much unnecessary thought into simple situations that intoxicate my mind. For example, my brain plays these crazy, or at times unrealistic, scenarios which lead to me never truly accepting my initial task. Like the tangled strings of yarn in my piece, I’m intertwined in these overlapping swirls of insecurity. It doesn’t matter whether I approach problems negatively or positively because I’ll still overthink them. I think the material I used as a representation of my thoughts creates a perfect metaphor for what I’m trying to convey. It doesn’t matter if the yarn is held tightly by nails because it’ll still break – if only I had enough courage to cut it. In other words, I believe overthinking can be stopped if we can just accept what happened or will happen.
Sophia – 10th Grade, Coral Gables Senior High
“Never give up your dreams and hope”
My experience painting and participating in this program and community was unique because I love it and it is hard for me, as a grumpy person, to admit that I feel happy being here in this group, which I consider to be like another family. I made this piece by drawing a sketch representing my depression, understanding a teenager’s common mental problems like stress, depression, anxiety and loneliness. My purpose in painting this piece is to represent the depression that many teenagers are suffering; I want to show how it feels, but every problem has a solution, right? Well first, I drew it by doing a sketch in the sketchbook, then painted it on a wooden board, with a little phrase in 3D style by doing flowers with rigid wrap. This was my first time using it to make beautiful flowers and I’m impressed by it.
I chose depression because that’s what I’m fighting for, my emotions and my social statements, trying to be happy with my friends and family so that’s what I’m showing. I know that I have hope for this; this is a battle that you can’t give up that easily.
Melissa – 11th Grade, Coral Gables Senior High
“We have overcome”
This piece is a digital artwork made using Photoshop and animated using the Timeline feature, then projected onto the wall via a projector.
The figure projected in the animation is Holden Caufield, teenage protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in The Rye. In this piece, Holden serves as a mascot for teen angst, alienation, and jadedness from the superficiality of society. However, through this work of art, I don’t mean to simply call attention to such teen struggles, I mean to spread a hopeful message to all teens viewing this image: You are not alone. There is always hope. The future awaits.
In truth, “hope” is the main thing I want to highlight in this piece. Despite the disillusionment that teens go through, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. An important thing to mention that I took into consideration when brainstorming for this piece was that during the time of The Catcher in The Rye’s release – and to this very day – the book resonated so well with adolescents that its main character, Holden, became a nationwide mascot for the struggling teenager, deadened by society’s superficial sameness. That very feeling of numbness that teenagers so often experience is the same feeling I wanted to convey in my piece, which is why I logically decided that the addition of Holden was the best way to represent such ideas. Through this short, looped animation, I want to spread the simple message that, as it says in the artwork, “there is still hope.”
Maurizio – 12th Grade, Coral Gables Senior High
“LA DA DI LA DU DAU”
My piece is a visual representation of the “free will” we think we have. Free will is the idea that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. In my opinion, this idea will only ever really be an idea due to the judgement carried out through society. Yes, one can do what they please, but only at the expense of criticism.
Samantha – 10th Grade, Coral Gables Senior High
“Don’t stress it.”
I created an artwork with the goal of using acrylic paint and physical objects to represent the stress felt by today’s youth. As school stress is something I’ve found to be a prominent aspect in daily life for both myself and my friends, I attempted to create a space that embodies the idea of an overwhelming workload. To this end, I used old homework, books, and various items of a similar theme. For the painting, which depicts a girl holding her head in her hand, I used black and white paint, intending to express how draining such stresses can be. The clocks surrounding her are an attempt to represent deadlines of activities that require attention. Some of the clocks are just beginning to form with the idea that the stresses are seemingly perpetual. The work seems unfinished, an intentional act to display the fact that when confronted with so much to do, not everything can always be done.
“You’ll never blossom unless you set it out”
I wanted to convey a piece that embodies the contrast between my current self, which is reflected into the mirror, and the positive, illustrated canvas I still have yet to unveil. To be frank, people who are socially active and outgoing and able to go places outdoors without supervision and hesitation have always mesmerized me, wanting to have that positive quality for myself.
Susan – 12th Grade, Coral Gables Senior High
“Don’t blink, you might miss it.”
I wanted to create a piece to represent myself overcoming personal obstacles. I used a long width canvas and acrylic to paint the work. I wanted to create a panoramic view of time to show the past and the future on the left and right ends. The main element of the piece is in the center, the present, and it is a heart. The work carries a lot of symbols from nature (fire, mountains, water) and manmade objects (cups,chain, gears).
“Leading isn’t just bossing people around. A real leader are those who know how to work in a team.”
This multimedia piece intends to portray the decline and progression of one’s mental health. This is not intended to be directed at any specific illness, but it is an umbrella for those who have some sort of internal struggle relating to their mental health. The bottom tier tries to focus on representing internal struggle through lack of communication, the middle tier intends to represent self destructive nature through toxic behavior, and the top tier is supposed to shed light on the possible outcome of the bottom and middle tiers interacting. The screen looking into each box is suppose to show the true nature of the individual at the moment (sort of like you’re watching them from a TV screen). The boxes will look like they falling over to represent how chaotic the mind can be.