April 12, 2023
The Power of Identity with Artist Eva Vēvere
In late March the artist Eva Vēvere and art mediator Evelīna Andžane met students of the Jelgava Spīdola State Gymnasium to sum up their experiences to date in the project Artist is Present – Contemporary Art Residencies in Schools. In the first meeting with the artist, the students worked in groups, making a territorial map of contemporary art based on their own experiences and ideas about it, while in the second visit the students could work individually, creating a work about their identity, with each student being able to freely choose one of books the artist had brought and make a self-portrait out of it, making use of felt-tip pens, glue, different brushes, as well as black and white paper and colored India ink. Their assignment turned out to be truly effective, as each class had two lessons allotted to it. Students could fully give into the process of researching their identity through working with an object, in this case a book. “It’s a provocative exercise, in which everyone, starting out with a book that serves as a point of reference, is permitted to do everything that helps manifest one of the numerous ideas about the character of the one who’s making the work. Here, identity is like a construct that is created, influenced, saved and then deconstructed again.”
On the visit of March 28, the fifth, students could present their own work. They discussed the self-portraits of Grade 10 students collectively whereas Grade 11 students discussed their work with Eva Vēvere individually. The conversations both revealed the students as sensitive icebergs inviting one to look at the fragmented being, the search of an identity and the unknown landscape of the future beneath its visible part as well as gave in to self-depreciation and radical creativity, freely giving the book’s content and its visuality to their own creative style. The books were used to create a chain of eighteen links, which stands both for a period of life and one’s sense of being the oldest student in the class. A book tower with a number of stories was created as they thought about the tower that will fall at life’s end. One of the books had a nest with a bird – the self which is looking for its way in life and feels the safest in the nest. Another book was turned into a bouquet, testifying that the student feels as a flower in her gender, ready to give her love to the world. Meanwhile the work of another student revealed color and chaos, with many parts that don’t touch one another as well as a part that no one knows about, including the author of the portrait. .
During the workshop, some of the students also did the ‘social atom’ exercise, creating a mind map that had themselves at the center and different things which are present in the student’s life at various distances from it. This exercise was suggested by Anna Gubermane, a psychologist, mentor and drama therapist from the Adolescent Resource Center, as a supplement to the goals of the artist residency project.
At the close, the artist invited students to consider their preferred media for telling their story and expressing aspects of their identity. In the next workshop, the students will have the chance to experience a captivating creative process using a personally significant thing/object that they will have brought along with them.