Gelb Gallery Exhibit Examines Identities Through Written Word and Visual Art

A neat line of four birds walk down a horizontal plane. Although three of the birds are penguins, one of them is a goose dressed in a tuxedo. Contextualizing the piece, the phrase “It’s okay to be different” is boxed at the bottom of the page. Drawn in pencil by Sabrina Lu ’17, Co-Head of Art Exchange, this picture is currently on display in the Gelb Gallery as part of the new exhibit, “Identities.”

“Identities” is an exhibit curated by the Art Exchange club and the Strangers Project at Andover. The gallery features artwork created by Art Exchange members focusing on the central theme of identity in addition to written pieces submitted anonymously in response to the question “What is your story?”

The Art Exchange Club collaborated with the Strangers Project to create the exhibit on identity.

“[The Strangers Project] gave us a sort of reversal of what we had done, where we had taken aspects of the artist’s identity and sort of blew them up and showed them to the public, and what they did was give us the stories but without an identity to attach them to, so what they gave us was sort of the opposite of what we had and so that it shows two different sides: An identity without a story and a story without an identity,” said Flynn Bryan ’18, a board member of Art Exchange.

The Strangers Project was brought to Andover last year by Malika Dia ’17, Moe Sunami ’17, Rudd Fawcett ’18, and Miriam Feldman ’18 during Wellness Week. For the entire week, they stationed themselves near the entrance of the library and asked people what their stories were.

“We were thinking about Wellness Week and how little time people have for reflection and just taking time to see where they are with their identity and how they feel about themselves… I think for identity to have such an important place in our lives, we have to reflect a bit and it just can’t be based on how we’re perceived. It’s really based on how we chose to portray ourselves,” said Dia.

Art Exchange focuses their winter project on a specific topic each year. Last winter, the focus was on “Identity.” The artwork made by members last winter are a part of the Gelb Gallery exhibit currently.

“Identity is a very big and important topic that we talk about at school. [Personal and Community Education (PACE)] is one of those big places where we do a lot of this talking and, coming off of Lower Year, we thought that it’d be nice… to incorporate artists and artwork into this conversation,” said Albert Yue ’17, Co-Head of Art Exchange.

In the corner of the gallery, a painting created by Bryan depicts a child in the stomach of their mother. Painted in purple hues, the naked mother lays on her back. The image is depicted in such a way that the viewer can see the blue-hued fetus in the mother’s womb.

“One of my favorite pieces is a pretty small one by Flynn Bryan… I think it’s really nice because a lot of times when we talk about identity we really think about ourselves and how we are perceived in society, but this also talks about how our parents are a part of our identity from giving birth to us and raising us,” said Yue.

In Yue’s drawing and watercolor, five birds fly over a tumultuous sea. Contrasting against the sky’s dark blues, four of the birds are white swans, and the other is a brown bird. The brown bird is displayed foremost, occupying the most space and immediately grabbing the viewer’s attention.

“I think [the brown bird is] very significant because it highlights identity, it highlights how each student’s identity is different and it’s okay to not share the same identity as the vast majority. But at the same time, the three white birds, even though they look the same, it doesn’t mean they have the same identity; they’re different birds, they’re not identical, even on the outside. So I feel like it portrays how identity works in its complex ways,” said Claudia Chu ’17, a board member of Art Exchange.


Editor’s Note: Sabrina Lu ’17 is the Chief Financial Officer and Rudd Fawcett ’18 is an Executive Digial Editor for The Phillipian.