On May 10, Louisville Visual Art will open the 2019 Academy Exhibition for high school students. This is the first of a two-part look at the senior students included in that exhibit.
“LVA has made a major difference in my life” - Alexis Fromm
In the work of these three graduating seniors we see a preoccupation with a deconstruction of the human form. Bodies are modified through dismemberment, the peeling of skin, or a grafting of mushrooms onto the epidermis, not for horrific effect but as metaphorical signposts for the adolescent introspection building a foundation for identity. Each of these artists is still finding themselves, searching for who they are by peeling themselves like an onion.
Whether or not the exact images are self-portraits is beside the point; all art expresses the aesthetic concerns of the individual. In “Moulting” Madelyn Hicks depicts a woman’s torso, bereft of hips, legs, or feet, stripping away skin. The piece may be inspired by a case of post-beach vacation sunburn, but it elicits feelings of discomfort in the viewer in part because the woman so casually changes her physical form without any preciousness or hesitation.
Natalie Stastny’s “Mushroom Bride” wears a garment made of the plants, or is the fungus a part of her skin? The ambiguity is compelling, but the choice of color, gesture, and expression do not suggest distress. Whatever the reality, the bride seems happy enough.
A print from Alexis Fromm is slightly more gruesome. It shows a naked female torso in which the skin has been pulled away to reveal an oversize eyeball surrounded by teardrops. The merging of vivisection and whimsy is pure surrealism. We want to turn away but we cannot.
These are arguably the more overt examples of a fascination with the physical self that might be claimed as a teenage stereotype, but the level of confident, even sardonic self-awareness and forensic examination is impressive. One of Fromm’s favorite subjects seems to be animal skulls, although she extends them into fantastical forms beyond the mundane farm inhabitants whose brains they once held. “Hellboy” imagines the horns and stretched earlobes of the comic book character.
And Hicks’ young person eating Tostitos from the bag while prone on their bed in violation of how many rules of civilized behavior is not quite “Ladylike”, but the image suggests that they could care less about outmoded nomenclature intended to restrict all natural impulses for comfort.
Meanwhile, Stastny is fond of entangling her figures in organic forms that seem to bind and blind them. We assume it is not because she doesn’t like drawing eyes that she inevitably shields them from view.
All three artists are fearless in exploring the plasticity of the body, lending it malleability that aligns them with Modern and Post-modern movements.
Alexis Fromm has been in LVA classes since 7th grade. She will be attending Spalding University with a $6,000 Merit Scholarship and a projected major of Studio Arts.
“After my first class with Rodolfo Salgado Jr., I fell in love with Printmaking and have taken every printmaking class with him that was available. Before LVA I did not know what printmaking was and I didn’t know the large variety of art that was in the world besides clothing, painting, and drawing. LVA has inspired me to go to college and pursue my love for art.”
Fromm has worked as a volunteer for Steam Exchange Community Arts Center over the past four years. With Steam Exchange she attended the Mayor’s Give A Day to help clean out their building and clean up around the Smoketown neighborhood.
Madelyn Hicks has taken LVA classes every semester for all four years of high school: Studio Art with Rudy Salgado, Drawing 1 and 2 with Wilma Bethel, Painting 1 with Dennis Whitehouse and Sunny Ra, and Painting 2 with Sunny Ra, Julie Leidner, and Tenille Novinger. She was accepted into several schools and will be attending The University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program in the fall and majoring in Industrial Design
Hicks was accepted into GATES (Gifted and Talented Educational Services) for art, and the Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA) 2018 program. She also won an LVA competition to have her work featured on the 2018-19 season poster for The Kentucky Opera.
“LVA truly taught me how to make art. My teachers all taught me different techniques and styles of creating that shaped me into the artist I am today. The classes I took with Sunny Ra in drawing and painting established the foundations I needed to discover my perspective as an artist and work not only technically but also conceptually. Sunny definitely went above and beyond for me and was extremely helpful in building a portfolio for both GSA and college auditions. The different perspectives and skills I learned through LVA have provided a strong base for me as a creator.”
Natalie Stastny has taken Academy at LVA classes for three years: 2 Digital Art classes with Lilly Higgs, one Drawing and Painting class with Sunny Ra, and one Drawing and Painting class with Julie Leidner. She has been accepted at and received scholarships and/or financial aid for the Art Academy of Cincinnati, the Columbus School of Art and Design, and Eastern Illinois University.
Stastny is also involved in National Art Honors Society and the Atherton High School Art Club and earned a varsity letter in Swimming. She has represented Atherton on WLKY and the PBS News Hour talking about the school’s transgender bathroom policy.
“My favorite class with LVA has been the Digital drawing class. I’ve taken it twice mostly because the program itself helped me understand digital media but also because my teacher (Lilly Higgs) was very encouraging and helped me practice digital drawing with tablets, which at the time was a resource I did not have access to at home.”
“I loved all of my classes and think they have helped me a lot in both my personal and school related art projects. Lilly Higgs and Julie Leidner especially seemed to want to talk to me and get to know me better. I won’t forget the kindness that those teachers offered me. It also allowed me more practice time during the day and a space where I can just be creative and also learn the basics of art at the same time.”
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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved. In addition to his work at the LVA, Keith is also the Managing Editor of a website, Arts-Louisville.com, which covers local visual arts, theatre, and music in Louisville.