New York is “OURS”: An exploration with Teen Art Salon

Written by Devon Ma and Luis Cuesta

Last month in the Gallery, Ace Hotel New York welcomed work from 60+ artists for “OURS” — a group show by and for New York City. “OURS” is on view through Aug 31; with all proceeds to benefit Teen Art Salon (TAS). Featured in the group show were six TAS artists, whose works are explored by TAS alumni, Devon Ma and Luis Cuesta.

Artist: Anahita Sukhija
Title: Follow the Blue Shoes
Medium: Performance 
Year: 2021
Original dimensions: 8.5 x 11 inches
@anahitasukhija

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Created by a roster of artists engaged with Teen Art Salon’s mission, the works presented in OURS speak to a youthful exploration of space and belonging in the pandemic-impacted urban landscape of New York City. Across this collection of prints, the presence of wayfinding protagonists illustrates the curiosity of adolescence, as all works play with discovery and possibility.

Without offering a false sense of universality to a time that has illuminated systemic disparities, OURS foregrounds the power of imagination as a means of gaining agency and autonomy across experiences. With destinations left beyond the frame, we are encouraged to look both inwards and around us in what we desire to come next, as we work collectively to build alternative futures.

Throughout Anahita Sukhija’s “Follow the Blue Shoes” — a seven hour performance mapping the pathways of blue shoes across the city — viewers may perceive two things: one, an illusion of intimately knowing complete strangers; and two, intimacy with the artist based on their proximity to the strangers they follow. Living or growing up in the amalgam of New York City forces artists, especially those who are young and developing to view themselves and their identities in constant proximity to others. This creates unique circumstances for storytelling and a specific self-awareness symptomatic of coming-of-age against a metropolitan backdrop.

Artist: Luna Doherty-Ryoke, @runaoe
Title: Faces You Will See
Medium: Watercolor
Year: 2019
Original dimensions: 13 x 9.5 inches

We see this style of narration and positionality in the artworks submitted by Luna Doherty-Ryoke and Aneesa Razak. “Faces You Will See” comments on a commuter’s time spent gazing at strangers through a watercolor assemblage of different faces disconnected from their imagined bodies. The commute, or time in passage, signifies the spaces where whole narratives are imagined and inner monologues surface. Whether sketching from life or from memory, recollection here becomes a form of artistic curiosity.

Artist: Aneesa Razak, @beforehouses
Title: FLAMIN’ HOT CHEETOS for breakfast
Medium: Pen on paper
Year: 2021
Original dimensions: 11 x 14 inches

In “FLAMIN’ HOT CHEETOS for breakfast,” Aneesa Razak centers a ‘Hot Cheeto Girl’; an urban archetype of young BIPOC femmes who typically arrive at school with bodega snacks such as gum, canned Arizona iced teas, or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for an early morning breakfast. This archetype exists within the remembered peripheries of most working class and low-income public school students, though the “Hot Cheeto Girl” has unfortunately turned into a caricature for many. Here, Razak pays homage to a friend from middle school, by tenderly reflecting on their daily routine. The drawing becomes a way to preserve a connection and icon from childhood.

Artist: Adriana Gonzalez,  @lemon_girl_here
Title: Eat the Streets
Medium: Digital Drawing
Year: 2021
Original dimensions: 11 x 14 inches

Adriana Gonzalez’s bright illustration “Eat the Streets” engages a main figure and their assumed smaller siblings flying above a crowded street fair. The chaotic rhythm of the city is framed by this dynamic interdependent trio. It reminds us of the many sibling dynamics one might experience or see in the city, where the eldest takes on the responsibility of shepherding the younger children to and from activities. The city’s magic and opportunities are amplified here through the lens of youth in a cinematic style.

Artist: Taína Cruz, @virtualtai
Title: Feeding the Multitude
Medium: Acrylic on watercolor paper
Year: 2021
Original dimensions: 12 x 9 inches

Taína Cruz’s piece, “Feeding the Multitude” depicts a well known meal from the New Testament where Jesus blessed five loaves of bread and two fish in order to feed 5,000 people. The image becomes contemporary with the wine depicted as a green kool aid jug, and a computer laid in the mid-ground. The airbrushed quality of work establishes a dreamlike, mental, timeless, or immaterial space. This setting could be interpreted as a bountiful personal sanctuary and relates to Cruz’s practice, which excavates rituals and objects as sites of connection between Indigenous American and West African cultures.

Artist: Malia Seva, @bagofbones4 
Title: Major Players of a New York Moment: Episode One
Medium: Pen on paper
Year: 2021

“Major Players of a New York Moment: Episode One” by Malia Seva depicts a study of multiple characters, with tagged words beneath. This piece revolves around a cast of characters who circulated and connected with the artists during their stay at a Bronx hostel. Here, a common New York pastime is exposed to its fullest sanctity, the act of people watching.

“The choice to observe with intent, a patience to record, and an obsession with reimagining surroundings, patterns, and outliers is a unique state of hyper awareness that reverberates as New York City art kids come of age.”
-Isabella Bustamante, Founder and Executive Director of @teenartsalon