Our Portraits, Our Selves: YouthZone and Anderson Ranch partner for teen show
In ‘Deconstructing the Self-Portrait,’ teen artists explore identity and aesthetics
What: ‘Deconstructing the Self-Portrait’
Where: Patton-Malott Gallery, Anderson Ranch Arts Center
When: Extended through Dec. 3
More info: andersonranch.org
Ten young local artists spent the fall at YouthZone exploring painting and self-portraiture. They’re now sharing their work — anonymously — at Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s Patton-Malott Gallery in “Deconstructing the Self-Portrait,” a group exhibition running through Dec. 3.
Their large-scale self-portraits aim to portray both their outer appearance and inner lives, using new skills the artists learned under the mentorship of Anderson Ranch’s Olivia Martinez.
A recent addition to the Ranch staff, Martinez — in the newly created role of Latinx Community Leader and Children’s Program Coordinator — is spearheading and broadening Ranch programs aimed at young people and the Spanish-speaking community in the Roaring Fork Valley.
This inaugural YouthZone collaboration drew kids from eighth grade through high school who live in Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle. They met weekly on the Glenwood campus of YouthZone, which advocates for local young people impacted by social, emotional and physical conflicts.
As Martinez leads programs aimed at the valley’s Latin community — part of a larger Ranch effort on equity and accessibility — the Snowmass Village-based organization is expected to expand its footprint midvalley and downvalley.
“I felt we could reach more kids there, instead of trying to get them to ride a bus for 50 minutes up here,” Martinez explained.
Martinez mentored the students in the practices of portrait photography and artistic choices of gridding, planning and coloring.
Most of the portraits are realistic and representational medium shots, while the backgrounds play with varying degrees of abstraction and let creativity run wild.
“For the backgrounds, I said ‘Make it whatever you want — you can be wherever you want to be,’” Martinez explained. “They came up with some really cool stuff.”
The self-portrait “A Mess,” for instance, shows a young man in front of four distinct quadrants that each seems to have come from a different artist in a different era working in a distinct style. And “Half n’ Half” shows a girl posing on an Adirondack chair with a vivid rainbow river running behind her. While “Stargazing” poses its subject amid a fantastic starry night sky.
In the transfixing “Splash of Color,” a kid stands in front of a gridded background of red, yellow and blue, with the colors also smeared across the artist’s stoic face.
An intense portrait titled “Disassociation” is more stylized than the rest and offers a close-up of a young girl with bloodshot eyes, against a background peppered with the word “no” and smears of red.
The three-hour art-making sessions were focused as much on the work as they were on building community and camaraderie among the art students. Students were referred to the program by art teachers, school counselors and YouthZone.
“They could open up and tell their story without being direct about trauma or whatever they’ve been through,” Martinez said.
The YouthZone-Anderson Ranch partnership was born, in part, out of last year’s Ranch public art project that created seven banner-based artworks spotlighting valley nonprofits and hung them in downtown Aspen. YouthZone was among them. Leaders at the Ranch saw the teens served by the nonprofit as a natural fit for more collaboration.
“Our hope was that we could provide a program for those specific teens or other teens downvalley,” Martinez said.
Not all of the students who took part are engaged with YouthZone. Some, Martinez said, don’t regularly attend school, which for her underscores the power of this program to engage young people through creativity.
“The fact that we could get them to come is big,” she said. “That makes me feel like the work the Ranch is doing right now can be very powerful.”
“I was really excited about it because these are the participants that really need art in their lives, and it might be the first opportunity they’ve had to interact with art or to paint a large-scale painting,” Martinez said.
Martinez, who has previously worked with Denver Art Museum and Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, last spring finished a masters in elementary education at Colorado College.
All 10 of the participants received scholarships for 2022 summer workshops on the Snowmass Village campus.
In her new post at the Ranch, she will be starting bilingual programs and new outreach to locals that historically have not been part of the Ranch community. This fall, Martinez spearheaded the campus celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which drew a crowd of 200 to the Ranch, as well as the Ranch’s Dia de los Muertos event at the Basalt Regional Library.
Ranch spokesperson Katherine Roberts added that the nonprofit recently received a significant gift that will fund a broad expansion of outreach in the coming years, funding new programs, more outreach and more opportunities for Spanish speakers at the Ranch.
“Deconstructing the Self-Portrait” is the beginning of something bigger.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.