Show not tell

BAR HARBOR — What’s in a word?

Each of us has our own internal dictionary based on our life experience. We associate images and feelings with specific words.

Students in the Mount Desert Island High School National Arts Honor Society were given a word and asked to bring its meaning to life with an image or images. Their creations are on display in the Wing Gallery at the high school through the month of January.

Eighteen art students took words such as “perdition,” “ouroboros,” “lineage” and “deluge” and translated them into art using photography, ink, pencil and paint.

Austria Morehouse got celery. Seems like an easy one to portray, right? For most artists, things are not that straight forward and Morehouse’s creation was no exception.

“I never would have chosen ‘celery’ for myself,” said Morehouse in an email. “But after giving it some serious thought, I was able to build on the word and create a piece that I was happy with.”

Using photography, she posed two sticks of celery next to a Charleston Chew candy bar in the pocket of an empty pair of blue jeans. This set up was placed on a black board so there are no distractions from the image.

“Playful, fresh, and bright,” Morehouse wrote in her artist statement. “I wanted to explore positive themes of American choice, identity, pastoral life in contrast to urban values and imagery, and corporate consumerism as opposed to local, homegrown markets.”

“As a teen, learning to make healthy lifestyle choices,” she adds, “I’ve found that there are many positive and negative influences that can make their way into our lives.”

Celery is not the first thing that catches the eye when viewing Morehouse’s photograph, but it is impossible to miss it in the pocket of the jeans. As it sits in the pocket, raw, fresh and green, the celery definitely looks out of place and vulnerable, as if it needs to be protected or eaten quickly.

“Audiences are given the opportunity to subconsciously choose for themselves their preferred delicacy,” Morehouse writes in her artist statement, “and their individual choices create a social statement in and of themselves … Overall, the graphic juxtaposition and ecological contrast of the celery and the candy is symbolic of the power of choice. With this power comes great consequences, and as a society, we must choose for ourselves the preferred path.”

A junior at the high school, Morehouse applied to be a member of the National Arts Honor Society this year. According to Charlie Johnson, who has been the director of the honor society since 2007, students apply to be a part of the esteemed group but not all meet the criteria to qualify. Members create art in addition to assigned school work.

What makes the Words show so strong is the individual process the students went through to portray the specific concept they were given.

Ayano Ishimura was given the word perdition, which means a state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and impenitent person passes after death. Using pencil, she drew a woman’s face and neck with hands grabbing the woman, pulling her hair and choking her.

Using C.S. Lewis’s interpretation of hell in his novel “The Great Divorce,” Ishimura’s artist statement says, “I believe that those who are stuck in a state of eternal punishment are kept there by their own attachments, addictions, obsessions, resentments, and principles. In this piece, the hands extended towards the subject represent these haunting memories, habits, fears, or regrets that follow a person around during their lifetime, leading them to their personalized state of hell.”

Zoe Eason’s word was deluge, which means a severe flood or a great quantity of something. With acrylic paint, she painted a woman’s image three different times, each image showing the woman crying with different emotions on her face.

In her artist statement, Zoe wrote, “I was inspired by the stress that I, and many others, feel due to schoolwork, sports, and other bits and aspects of life that often drive me to tears.

“The painting process was a nice calming break from reality,” she added, “and I wanted the whole piece to show the conflicting emotions I felt, so the women have relatively emotionless and colorless faces, but the tears show the deluge of emotions within.”

Just before the holiday break the artwork was hung in the Wing Gallery. Those who get a chance to see it in person may have a whole new take on words for awhile.

“Our group has discussed the meaning behind our pieces a few times in preparation for the exhibit,” said Morehouse in an email. “It was really awesome to see how wonderfully creative and different each person’s piece was, and further, to read their meaningful artists’ statements.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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