Premiere virtual arts exhibit displays ‘powerful work’ of photography students

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Photo credit: Marley Mills

Marley Mills photographed her sister, Archer alumni Siena Mills for her Advanced Photography class. “The project was all about using text,” Mills said. “So I looked up a bunch of texts, and this excerpt came up and I really liked it.”

By Andrea Ramirez, Staff Reporter

Archer’s art department has launched the Arts at Archer website in order to showcase student’s artwork in this virtual setting. The first exhibit titled, “Portraits in Photography” was shared last month, and showcases photographs by the Advanced and AP Photography students. It featured eight pieces, each by different photographers sharing different messages. All pieces were inspired by text and the three methods of self-portraiture.

Photography teacher Marya Alford was the students’ mentor for this exhibit. She wanted the students projects to focus on something meaningful to them. Alford gave all students a theme, inspiration images, and artists but each project was unique.

Everybody did such a different project from [the prompt], and some really powerful work came out of that,” Alford said.

Senior Kaiya Jefferson is a member of the Advanced class whose artwork is being exhibited on the website. Jefferson said her artwork has been influenced by our contemporary world, and more specifically the experiences of people of color and Black Americans.

“I hope that [the piece] sparks conversation about murders that happen every day to people who look like me and who look like my siblings who I’ve photographed,” Jefferson said. “I have been able to incorporate my activism into art, which displays the intersectionalities that we all have.”

Junior Marley Mills’ work was also exhibited. Like Jefferson, she also focused on something she feels is important and relevant to others her age.

“My piece focuses on female empowerment, self-growth and moving on from, dark places and not relying on other people for your own happiness,” Mills said. “I feel like self-image and body image is something we put too much pressure on.

Exhibiting artwork in a virtual setting created obstacles for the art department because the pieces would usually be in the Eastern Star Gallery or on the walls of the arts hallway. The website is a way that the art department is attempting to be inventive, but faculty worried about how many people would log onto the website and take a look at the pieces.

We are learning so much through this process about ourselves and each other and ways that we can be more efficient.”

— Marya Alford

“The website is one of those ways for the art department to showcase what the students have been doing, and I was really happy and surprised that when I sent the email out that so many people just like immediately went and visited,” Alford said. 

When asked what takeaways she had from the experience, Jefferson shared that she wants to be more adventurous in art because she has used new mediums this year such as paint and Photoshop.

I think it’s definitely pushing us to find new ways to express ourselves because we are so limited in the equipment we have,” Jefferson said. “When I go back to school and I have the opportunity to use whatever equipment maybe I will also include some new type of medium or something.”

Mills has used the resources available to her at home in order to shape her photography and has been using photography as a creative outlet.

“It’s kind of how I’m staying sane during COVID,” Mills said. “Art has always been something that has influenced my life as a whole and so this year I’ve chosen to prioritize it and use my free time on it.”

Jefferson has been able to intertwine her passion for photography, and her activism throughout her artistic journey.

“It’s been really interesting to me to kind of develop a theme that I have throughout my photos,” Jefferson said. “Or how I incorporate my activism into art is just really interesting for me and kind of displays, the intersectionalities that we all have. 

After overcoming obstacles, Alford has learned from this experience and is now thinking about doing future shows online to be more environmentally friendly.

I think in the future it will be cool to utilize this online environment so students and faculty and whoever can visit it at any point,” Alford said. “Maybe that incorporates kinds of projects that have video, music, sound, and stuff like that.”

Photography plays a part in Mills’ life, as she has been doing it for about three years and encourages others to use incorporate creativity into their daily lives.

“Take the space that you need to be creative. I think that’s the most important thing in the whole entire world,” Mills said, “If you don’t have creativity and passion and drive the world’s going to be bland and without art and photography.”

Alford and fellow teachers recognize that the students have been put in a difficult position in quarantine, and is happy that people have been able to persevere and remain creative.

“We’re so proud of how great the students are doing in this space part of being an artist is how you go through these struggles in your life, and you navigate around them,” Alford said. “You guys are doing that in high school, which is really cool.”