Art-400 Exhibit Artwork Explores American Youth Through Photography

Sally Mann, “The New Mothers,” 1989. Gelatin silver print, 8 in. x 10 in. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. Museum purchase.

In a black and white photograph, two little girls stand in ruffled dresses. The taller of the two girls stares directly at the camera, a look of intimidation on her face, and one hand daintily holding a cigarette. Gripping a backwards-facing stroller with a baby doll sitting in it, the smaller girl has short blond curls and dons large sunglasses that cover her eyes. She is clutching a baby doll with her hand and she also faces directly at the camera.

The picture, titled “The New Mothers,” by photographer Sally Mann, is a part of the new show called “Come as You Are: American Youth,” which will be displayed in the Addison Gallery of American Art’s Museum Learning Center (MLC) next Wednesday.

This annual exhibition is curated by a group of students through an Art-400 class at the Addison. This year, the class consisted of three students: Kaela Aalto ’20, Nick Picchione ’20, and Safi Zenger ’20, who all chose the exhibit’s theme of American Youth together.

“Our exhibition attempts to encapsulate the American childhood experience. Through providing our audience with a multitude of photographs pertaining to different adolescent and youth groups, we intend to broaden the perspective of our audience while simultaneously inciting personal reflection and relatability within them. Basically, we want to tell our audience that everyone in America experiences childhood in a different way. This exhibition highlights that,” wrote Picchione in an email to The Phillipian.

According to Aalto and Picchione, the exhibit also builds off the idea that there is not one specific narrative for childhood. Despite the fact that everybody’s childhood is different, there are many things that unite people, such as music, TV, clothing, and what is learned in school. Aalto described an example of contrasting elements displayed in the exhibition.

“In this exhibition, there’s a wall of people that actually had to grow up too soon. There’s a sixteen year old boy in the war and contrasting with that is this little boy who’s just playing with guns for fun. Its purpose is to show how our childhoods differ in our shelternedness or our unshelterdness,” said Aalto.

Picchione wrote, “Our exhibition is split into multiple sub themes, i.e. activism, violence, play, education, etc. Basically, we tried to display each aspect of the typical American childhood in different ways in order to highlight the diversity of experiences in this country.”

The opening of the exhibit will place all the works curated by Aalto, Picchione, and Zenger on display for students, faculty, and other people visiting the Addison. Picchione is excited to share the exhibition to the larger public.

“I am definitely most excited [to see] my friends at the opening. I have grown very passionate about this show and art curation over the course of the term, and my friends have never really seen that side of me. I’m so excited to share my hard work with the community,” wrote Picchione.

In the class, Aalto, Picchione, and Zenger not only curated their own exhibit, but also learned about museum management.

Zenger said, “Art-400 was, by far, the best class of my term. It was my favourite class because I got to learn a lot, and it was definitely more career-oriented than any other class I’ve ever taken. We got to learn a lot about professions within museums, what curators do, and why they’re important and essential to a museum’s function. Our project, I think, is going to speak to everyone on this campus…I feel like everyone can get something out of it.”

The Art-400 student exhibition will be opening next Wednesday on November 20, 2019 and will be up until March 8, 2020.

Editor’s Note: Kaela Aalto is a Copy Editor for The Phillipian.