Featuring guest artists Sami Martasian and Caroline Hu, Phillips Academy ZineFest hosted two different workshops that explored various representations of multimedia art. Martasian, a freelance illustrator, focused on investigating identity in art, and Hu, with a background in biology, focused on the relationship between science and art. Martasian discussed how their efforts with numerous mediums have allowed them to explore their gender identity in a more personal way with a larger audience.
“I feel like when I am using images, that is a way to make that experience personal, and more digestible to others. And, I think that has helped me a lot to share about identity and gender experience, taking things that sometimes get talked about in this very academic or cold way and contextualizing them into something very personal,” said Martasian.
Hu reflected on her experience as a biologist and how it allowed her to find alternative sources of inspiration from the natural world to influence her art work. She also noted how her personal life seeps into her art and affects her perception of the world.
“There is a saying that almost all comics work, in a way, [as] a memoir, so even though I don’t explicitly do memoirs very often, whatever is happening in my life often makes its way out in my comics work. So, for example, I just recently made this big change going from being a full time biologist to being an artist, and it is not a coincidence that the first comic I am coming up with is about a cicada that is going through metamorphosis,” said Hu.
Max Berkenblit ’24, who attended the ZineFest, discussed how the workshop allowed him to craft a zine that portrayed various facets of his identity.
“I wrote a zine that the cover page was ‘If you are queer, don’t go through YouTube comments,’ because I have gone through YouTube comments and been disappointed every single time… I think it gave me a chance to be creative with myself, and go through magazines, and have a purpose while thinking about some aspect of myself I hadn’t previously considered,” said Berkenblit.
Likewise, April Arabian ’24, described the event as an opportunity to engage with Martasian, who shared her Armenian-American heritage. She enjoyed being able to express herself in a creative way while also staying in touch with her roots.
“I am also Armenian-American, so I decided to do my zine based off of my Armenian heritage, and some recipes that I found important to my heritage. I think I hadn’t experimented with collages in a while, and I feel pretty restricted when I do art sometimes because I feel like there’s always a prompt or something that you have to do for a grade, so it was nice to do something that I don’t have to share with anyone else if I don’t want to,” said Arabian.
According to Sonia Appen ’24, another attendee, the event was not only an opportunity to explore her identity but also to expand her creativity and artistic skills. She described how putting together magazines helped her learn how to format different elements according to her personal aesthetic.
“I just took out the images that I liked from the magazines and put them on…there is not really a theme or a message… It [helped] me think about the way that I create things,” said Appen.
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