To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Teenage artists contribute to MFA’s latest exhibit “HOMiE”

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is the fourth largest museum in the United States, and with many newly opened galleries, it is definitely worth a visit. The building is massive, cycling through traditional art on each continent and sprinkled with special exhibitions for Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo, to name a select few. It is easy to spend an entire day wandering the marble corridors and absorbing the magnificent art all around.

Not only does the MFA exhibit work from well-renowned artists, but also the Museum’s exhibit “HOMiE: In Our Eyes” is currently its first exhibition of artwork by Boston teenagers. The MFA partnered with Boston Public Schools to produce “HOMiE,” in which teenagers from the Boston area created artwork that explores the idea of home. Even more uniquely, the 44 featured works were selected by other teenagers—their peers from the Teen Arts Council, the MFA’s leadership development program for teens.

The exhibit’s range of works highlights how “For some, Home is a physical space; for others it is the people they are with; for many Home is an identity that only they can define.” Each piece reflects how the artists’ interpretation of home intertwines with their community, family, friends and personal identity. Homes depicted in the artwork include a hometown, a mother’s embrace, a subway train, a PlayStation, a keychain, a headscarf and a bus ride to volleyball games. The collection also represents the diversity of the Boston area. Artists are from myriad races and backgrounds and include different minority voices.

One of the first works seen in the exhibition is Alexandra Aragosta (Abitbol)’s “Red Babydoll’s House,” a striking digital media image of a row of dark green apartment windows with one apartment bathed in bright red light. On the sidewalk is a single child, happily toting a backpack and walking toward the lit apartment. According to the artist, she depicted the contrast of empty windows to a bright apartment because “every house is empty and blank in comparison to the familiarity of home.” The image also has a childlike quality to it; the lines are scribbled, the child has simplistic features and the image looks almost cartoonish. The use of childlike elements makes returning home to the red-washed apartment rather than the bleak row of apartments seem more comforting. The interesting color choice contributes to this: The empty apartment windows are colored a sickly green against the pitch-black building, and the “home” apartment is bright red with pink windows. The viewer can feel the child’s anticipation in getting past the green windows to arrive at the apartment that, physical structure alone, would not stand out from the rest—but is her home.

Another piece that uses the imagery of a street is Adler Arcene’s “Welcome Back.” In the black-and-white digital media work, Adler depicts a photograph of the bottom half of his face, but the top half of his face and the rest of his head are overlaid with images from the storefront of Morton Mini Market. A customer standing in line blocks his left eye; bottles cover his ear; a sign reading “We accept food stamps” is above his head. “As I walk down Morton Street, headed home, I feel I am in a place where I belong,” Arcene describes. “All the familiar sights and sounds, houses, faces, restaurants and markets are there to greet me and welcome me back from my journey.” The image is also washed in a sepia tone, giving it a nostalgic feel.

A noteworthy piece that depicts home as a person is Abigail Alexis’ “In Her Arms,” an acrylic painting of her and her mother in a loving embrace. “Every day I make sure that I hug my mother,” Alexis writes. “Home to me is my mother.” The painting uses large brush strokes, making the paint visible on the canvas and adding to the warmth of the embrace. Alexis’ eyes are closed and her head blocks the face of her mother, putting all the emphasis in the painting on the embrace itself. Similarly, there are no background images. The only colors in the painting are the bright blue of Alexis’ sweater and the red of her mother’s.

Alexis also noted that she lost one of her mothers in 2015, and that “Every time I hugged her, I felt I was returned to my Haitian home. Losing her was like losing my home.” This painting is a dedication to daughters, mothers and the unmatched comfort of feeling at home in the arms of a mother.

“HOMiE: In Our Eyes” is on exhibition in the MFA until January 2017. College students get free admission by presenting their school ID, so there is no excuse to not see this meaningful exhibit and the countless other collections the Museum of Fine Arts has to offer.

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