Seniors Emily Cadenas and Naobi Benjamin pose with their flowers to commence the opening of their art gallery. “Character Development” opened Wednesday, March 30, at the Eastern Star Gallery and highlighted their joint artwork about their growth as POC women. “Working with Emily  — she’s one of my best friends, so it’s cool to have a best friend who will encourage you and help you,” Benjamin said. “Our gallery was really successful because we have that trust and connection as well.” (Photo credit: Jullie Cach)
Seniors Emily Cadenas and Naobi Benjamin pose with their flowers to commence the opening of their art gallery. “Character Development” opened Wednesday, March 30, at the Eastern Star Gallery and highlighted their joint artwork about their growth as POC women. “Working with Emily  — she’s one of my best friends, so it’s cool to have a best friend who will encourage you and help you,” Benjamin said. “Our gallery was really successful because we have that trust and connection as well.”

Photo credit: Jullie Cach

‘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.”

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • Senior Noa Wallock and another guest talk about the artwork in the gallery. With the official opening of the gallery during lunch, many students, teachers, families and guests filled the room to look at the art. “We were given a space, first of all, to exist and for art to exist. Hopefully that inspires the other POC women that go to Archer, and [they can] realize that we can succeed in non traditional spaces like art careers,” Benjamin said. “It’s okay to be vulnerable because a lot of our pieces had very emotional backgrounds and experiences as well.”

    Photo credit: Jullie Cach

  • In “Picture Perfect,” Benjamin uses string and an image of a female face to reflect on the chaos and order within the beauty industry, where tension and sadness co-exist as defining factors of societal beauty standards. “I feel that this exhibit shows [how] dedicated we are to the arts program and how dedicated we were to make our show something special for our last year,” Benjamin said.

    Photo credit: Jullie Cach

  • “Morning Routine,” created by Emily Cadenas, visualises how we hide one’s true emotions and identity behind a mask and play a character to fit in our society. “A common theme in Emily’s pieces with the faces in the closet is having to portray yourself differently in front of different people,” senior Audrey Chung said. “Trying to define yourself for who you are instead of meeting the societal expectations is really cool.”

    Photo credit: Jullie Cach

  • “The Wonderland Prints,” created by Benjamin, are four images of a woman’s face, hanging in the gallery. According to Benjamin, the piece looks into madness and change. The woodcut pieces are an interpretation of Alice and her transformation in Wonderland. “I’ve seen myself get out of my comfort zone, and I think throughout the year we both gained a sense of maturity with our art,” Benjamin said. “Honestly, it is our maturity and our growth that is reflected through a lot of our pieces.”

    Photo credit: Jullie Cach

  • Highlighting Emily Cadenas’ younger and current self, “Fluidity of Time” illustrates Cadenas’ journey to self discovery, including the journey she took as an artist. “It’s really powerful, and it’s just so interesting to see what she’s done and how much she’s grown in her artwork,” Maria Cadenas said. “I’m really proud of her, and it was just so exciting to see.”

    Photo credit: Jullie Cach

  • Benjamin’s work, “A Modern Love Story, ” hangs in the gallery as a sarcastic look on what “love” feels like. Benjamin said she wanted to create playful yet a pessimistic look on relationships and the reality of them. “It starts off with the basics —specific projects, and you learn the techniques —which is obviously very crucial, but it allows you to develop an important foundation,” Benjamin said. “I love that as you go, it becomes a little more independent and a little more of an unique experience. Especially this year, we have whatever time we want, [and] we get to create whatever we want. I love having that freedom in my life.”

    Photo credit: Jullie Cach

  • Created by Emily Cadenas, “Broken Bodies” hangs in the center of the gallery, allowing viewers to walk around the piece. Cadenas said “Broken Bodies” is a reflection on the unattainable beauty standards that are forced on women. “I think it’s interesting to see how it says pain is beauty and seeing this body in its raw form, completely stripped of any clothes or anything,” senior Audrey Chung said. “Torn apart and having to be stitched together by something so fragile like a thread was very impactful to see, and knowing that Naiobi and Emily did this is mind blowing to me.”

    Photo credit: Jullie Cach

  • Benjamin’s piece, “What a Mess,” sits on a easel in the gallery. “[Naiobi] experimented a lot this year using unconventional materials like cardboard or different [and] less traditional materials,” Emily Cadenas said. “Instead of paint, [she] used charcoal or something different. I think that encapsulated what our whole message was about growth — as artists and as people.”

    Photo credit: Jullie Cach

Navigate Left
Navigate Right

The Oracle • Copyright 2022 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in