‘Character Development’ in progress: Senior art show explores ‘space of transformation’
June 2, 2022
Content Warning: The piece “Broken Bodies,” which is included in the photo gallery below, is an artistic nude depiction of a woman’s body.
Hanging frames, abstract canvases and a question of identity; seniors Naiobi Benjamin and Emily Cadenas created the exhibit “Character Development.” From March 29 to April 1, students visited the gallery that highlighted the unique experiences of women who identify as people of color through the medium of art.
“It really was just a space to show our individual growth and also the way that people grow through struggles and through identity,” Benjamin said. “Us both being POC women, we have similar experiences, and that’s why I feel like both of our works flowed very well together. It was just a space of transformation, and we wanted the audience to see that too.”
Benjamin said the title of their gallery, “Character Development,” was inspired by how artists and people are shaped by trauma, fears, hopes and desires. With a variety of colors, techniques and mediums displayed throughout the exhibit, Cadenas and Benjamin demonstrated how the identity of a POC woman impacts their growth.
“This year was my first time getting into oil paint, which I found my new passion with,” Cadenas said. “One of my last pieces was the big painting, which is ‘Fluidity of Time,’ and I could just see the growth within the first painting and the second painting — the textures, just the colors that blend. I felt more confident in my second piece because I was able to have that growth and more confidence working with that new medium.”
The gallery showcased different mediums of art that ranged from an acrylic painting of a dresser of faces entitled “Morning Routine,” to pieces of a body stitched together with red yarn to make, “Broken Body.” Cadenas’ mother, Maria Cadenas, watched Emily Cadenas’ artistic process firsthand during quarantine.
“Women now are able to show more of themselves. You’re able to actually show that you can be powerful,” Maria Cadenas said. “She’s now mature in a way where she feels like she has a voice, and all this artwork is proof of that. I feel like she, in her pictures, has shown that she has that power, that she is a female and that she can not only use her voice, but also use her paintings as a way of speaking.”
Dance Troupe Director Andrea Locke found parts of herself in the various forms of art showcased, and addressed the personal development made since the pandemic. Locke said viewing Cadenas’ and Benjamin’s portrayal of faces allowed her to experience the feeling of self-love.
“It was like the facets of development that we go through as human beings — of [wearing] the face of maybe not always what we feel but what we think other people want us to be,” Locke said. “The other of the exhibit was almost like the ugly side of ourselves, and learning to embrace that because we all have positive and negative [sides of ourselves], and not challenging that can contribute to our growth and development.”
Seventh grade attendee Layla Chavira said specific pieces, including the piece, “Behind the Mask,” connected her to her Latinx identity.
“Especially the title [of the exhibit], it tells you a lot about the piece because it’s behind the mask that some people with darker skin put on, ” Chavira said. “I have experience with this because my mom’s side of the family is Latina. I can definitely comprehend this.”
Maria Cadenas said, in light of the pandemic, the message of the exhibit shined through in each piece made by Emily Cadenas and Benjamin.
“Ever since COVID, I think that it is strongly suggested that you speak up a little bit more about your feelings and how you feel,” Maria Cadenas said. “It’s okay not to feel okay, and, honestly, that’s what I see in these pictures.”