Wendy Ewald: As Easy as ABC

Last Friday night at the Addison Gallery of American Art’s opening reception for fall exhibitions, which attracted approximately 400 visitors, Ewald and Jennifer Bartlett’s collections proudly adorned the walls of the gallery. These works will remain at the Addison until the end of fall term. Though these artists have very unique styles of art, they both use their artistic abilities to combine education, art, and expression. ————————— Is it really as easy as ABC? According to Wendy Ewald, one of the featured artists at the Addison Gallery, there is a much deeper meaning behind these simple twenty-six letters. Wendy Ewald’s featured work is entitled “American Alphabets” and is a collection of three different illustrated alphabets, with each letter representing a different word or phrase. There is a different photograph for each letter of the alphabet, and the subjects of the photographs were able to pick the word for the picture themselves. Over the past nine years, Ewald, who will visit campus in November and served as an Artist-in Residence in 2002, has created Spanish, Arab-American, African-American, and White Girl alphabets, each one representing the various social struggles and successes of these groups. The main ideas conveyed in these pieces all revolve around the youth of America and their various cultural differences. “A Spanish Alphabet,” created in 1988 with students from Bethesda Elementary School in Durham NC, was made using gelatin silver prints. Displayed in the same room, “An African American Alphabet” was made in 2000 in collaboration with students from the Central Intermediate School in Cleveland, Ohio. This piece is composed of chromogenic prints. Both of these alphabets boldly raise questions about the differences between culture and race from the eyes of young children and teenagers. “A White Girl’s Alphabet,” created in 2002, similarly highlights cultural diversity, but is connected to Andover more intimately. The subjects of these photographs are former Phillips Academy students, so reflect not only controversial and racial issues, but familiar faces. The words represented through the alphabet ranged from Hardcore to Flirt, PMS to Rebel, and Insecure to X-Rated. These Andover students were allowed to illustrate their pictures however they felt best represented their word, so each picture is diverse and carries a different message about the power of the written language. “What I love about this event is not any one single exhibit but instead how they work together. I love the contemporary and historical art and how they play off of each other,” said Julie Bernson, Director of Education at the Addison. “What is so unique about openings is that people of all ages and people from this neighborhood and from other states come together to view this artwork. Everyone here has a different perspective of art, but are coming together to celebrate these paintings.”