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Teen Dream - 5 young artists on navigating the artworld

Teen Dream - 5 young artists on navigating the artworld

Ahead of the exhibition’s opening, we caught up with those behind the scenes

It’s no secret that the art world has its problems. Especially to people who are just starting out, art can seem like it’s only available to rich, white bros—or at least that they’re the only ones getting any respect, or actual financial success. Fortunately, once you delve deeper into the scene you can see that things are changing. Women are coming together, working together and supporting each other’s work—and those art bros are very close to being de-throned.

Tonight sees the opening of the second edition of Teen Dream, an exhibition showcasing the work of 30+ young female-identifying artists ranging from the ages of 15-22 exploring issues such as mental health, relationships, and reproductive rights.

Whats most important about Teen Dream is that it gives young artists a place to show their work, learn from their peers, and grow. As a society, we place such an emphasis on achievement, without thinking about how people actually get there. The best art is made by evolving, and that’s what Teen Dream is about.

We talked to five of the artists artists featured in Teen Dream; Abbey Gilbert, Kassandra Piñero, Remi Riordan, Lauren Tepfer and Lani Parrilla, and curator of the exhibition Brittany Natale about their work, why safespaces in art are important, and how the media can help young artists.




GRAPE : Tell me about the work you have in the show?

Kassandra : I submit three photos of mine that were shot over the summer on disposable cameras. I refuse to work with anything other than disposables right now because they're the least intimidating medium I could think of. This was the first summer I ever spent hanging out with friends instead of just sitting in my room for 3 months straight so as corny as it is to say, the photos actually have a lot of good memories attached to them. Two were shot during the weekend I spent hanging out with Mari and Ana just wandering the city and meeting friends I had only spoken to online which was amazing. It was the first time I had felt happy and at peace in years and the light in the two photos is beautiful and really representative of the mood June had carried. The other was shot while searching for good light for hours during a cloudy day and the sun just peeked out from behind the clouds for a few minutes before disappearing again.

Can you tell me about Sula Collective? How did you start it and why?

Sula Collective was co-founded by me and Sophia Yuet See. It started off as an online platform for and by people of color to give space to people who didn’t have access to city centers or urban communities, so our goal was to be as accessible as possible to give everyone a chance to be heard, not just people who were instagram or tumblr famous. And of course we also started Sula to create a space where we didn’t need white people’s approval for the art we created. Now we’re even in print!

How do you feel the media can better represent young artists?

I feel like the media puts too much emphasis on youth and what we’re doing because of social media. We’re living in an era where there’s more of a pressure to succeed in your teenage years because we see so many people online living out what look like successful lives and subsequently we become stressed if we aren’t delivering a specific quality of work by a certain age. We should be focusing less on the age and more on the amount of growth the person has to go before they really come into themselves stylistically. No one’s work at this age is going to be the same way years from now, so why weigh their worth with a time span and then toss them away when they age out of the period the media deems acceptable. Young artists should be encouraged to keep growing, not pigeonholed into an aesthetic and then disposed of when a new trend comes along.

What does it mean to you be a part of Teen Dream?

The first Teen Dream show was the first event/gallery I ever attended on my own to try and meet new people that was actually welcoming, so it really gave me the push I needed to start going to other events without my anxiety or insecurity stopping me for once because all the girls there were so nice. Being a part of it now is sort of bizarre and wonderful.





GRAPE : Tell me about the work you have in the show?

The work I selected to be a part of the show is about girlhood and friendship! I believe it's so important for young women to empower one another and make each other feel safe. Growing up I never had a group of friends that made me feel great about myself up until high school. Friendship is truly magical and I believe that building strong & healthy relationships with your friends is beautiful.

Tell me about Art in the Park, what is it and why did you start it?

Art in the Park is a meet up I organize every once in a while for artists to connect with each other and just make art. It doesn't matter whether you're a painter, poet, photographer or musician, I encourage everybody to attend! I've always felt like the art scene in NYC was sort of clique-y and most of my friends felt the same way too. I was tired of not being able to fit in anywhere and I was tired of not having a safe place where I could create and express myself freely. I decided that I shouldn't keep waiting for people to accept me into their "clique" so I just went and created my own space where everyone was welcome. POC, LGBTQ people, disabled people, etc. My first Art in The Park was surreal. It was comforting being surrounded by people who made you feel safe and had similar interests.

How do you feel the media can better represent young artists?

A lot of media outlets take advantage of young artists. Sometimes they use our work/images without giving credit or they don't pay us because they think "exposure" is the greatest form of payment simply because we are young. Although exposure can be good for some artists, many other artists do struggle and need to get paid for their artwork. Commissioned art can be ones only source of income and big corporations don't realize that! I strongly believe young artists need to be taken seriously and treated respectfully. We work too hard to not be properly represented!

What does it mean to you be a part of Teen Dream?

When Brittany Natale asked me to be apart of the show I was completely shocked! I never thought my work would be on display for hundreds of people to see. The show includes work from 30+ young female identifying artists, whom which are some of my friends and major inspirations. This show really inspires me to create even more & has helped me strengthen my voice through my artwork. Being alongside such great artists is so amazing and I hope to have more opportunities like this.





Tell me about the work you have in the show?

I recently started a series of the mothers in my town. To start, I shot my mother and my best friend's mother. I wanted mothers to be the subject because a majority of my photos are of my friends, people 20 years old and younger. And I thought I could showcase both my mother's and my best friend's mother's beauty.

What do you look for when shooting portraits?

I try to get people to feel relaxed. I don't like photos when they feel too posed even if they are. Also lighting of course, even if the composition is good, the lighting really determines the quality of the photo.

Can you tell me a bit about Crybaby Zine? Why did you start it?

Crybaby is an online and print zine made by teenagers. We started as a small team in my hometown of Montclair, NJ in December 2014 and now, almost two years later, have people all over the world submitting to us.  

How do you feel the media can better represent young artists?

I would say the art industry could be more inclusive, diverse, and equitable.




Abbey Gilbert

GRAPE : Tell me about the work you have in the show?

Abbey (pictured left) : I have a photo of my friend Elliott getting his haircut by my other friend Jonny. The other photo is of my friend Chris, he was shaving his head and nicked himself with the razor.

Why documentary photography?

I make sure my photos accurately represent how the subject appears to be in real life. I don't try to distort reality or convey this fairytale ideal of what people and places are like.

How did you get involved with Durable Girls and what does it mean to you to be part of it?

I got involved with Durable Girls through my very good friend, Sophie Day. She thought of the idea of having a collaborative with a few strong, creative, passionate women. We're all such different people but we work so well together and all of us get along great. I'm so happy she decided to include me in Durable Girls because it's like a sisterhood. I always hung out with boys when I was younger, and still do now, more than I hang out with girls. So having positive female energy around me is still very new to me but it's nice.

What do you think about female-only exhibitions?

I think female-only exhibitions are a great idea for women to feel safe in their own space. It's a very comforting feeling to be surrounded by other women doing the same thing as you.

Do you have any specific goals for your art? 

That's a secret.




Lauren Tepfer

GRAPE : Tell me about the work you have in the show?

Lauren : I have 3 pieces in Teen Dream: ‘Self Portrait (2016)’ (pictured above), ‘Mark My Words’ and ‘Nighttime Pink' (pictured below). All of these pieces are photographs shot digitally. They are all very representative of my style as a whole. Visually speaking, a lot of my work is created with the intention to represent certain times in my life. All of the photographs that are being shown have been taken at some point within the past year.  

What themes does your work deal with?

When creating, I like to explore themes like fear, nostalgia, loneliness, serendipity, existentialism and feelings of being overwhelmed and overjoyed.

What tips would you give to young artists living in suburbia trying to find a sense of community?

My advice to young artists living in suburbia who are feeling alone and trying to find a sense of community would be to keep creating, even if it feels like nobody's watching or listening. I’ve spent so much time feeling insignificant and inferior because of the lack of a close artistic community around me. The more you create, the more you will feel comfortable and confident with your own art. Having confidence will help you grow as an artist. Confidence is key, the community and support of others will come over time.  

What does it mean to you be a part of Teen Dream?

Being a part of Teen Dream to me, means that I have a voice. It’s reassuring and totally validating of the work I’m doing. It’s celebrating artists who otherwise wouldn’t be recognised. The fact that it’s all female and primarily teenagers is so wonderful. It’s so exciting to have a platform and place to share my work and feel comfortable, safe and confident. I’m so excited to be included in such an honourable line up of artists! I am such a fan of everyone included in the show and can’t believe that I get to display my work amongst some of my very best friends!





GRAPE : Why did you start Teen Dream?

Brittany : Art has always been a saviour for me in a way. I am the child of divorce, the daughter of a single mother who worked three jobs at one point, and the daughter of a drug addict. I grew up in NYC and spent a lot of my time at museums and libraries as an escape, a place where I could find peace.

From this young age, I always wished there were more physical spaces for young creatives to show their work, connect with each other, and share their life experiences. After I found a newspaper clipping of my mom showing her work when she was 13, I knew I had to work towards making this happen.

How important are safespaces in the art world?

Safespaces allow people to come together, connect and create solidarity. Everyone's experiences may be different, but there's always a thread of commonality that helps people feel less alone. It's the beauty of "me too! But I thought I was the only one."

Do you have any advice for young artists trying to find their way and looking for an outlet?

Try not to focus so much on the daunting question of, "how" but instead on "why" - it will help you stay true to yourself and your purpose. It is so easy to become overwhelmed with the "how" - "how will I pull this off?", "how will I get this done?", "how will this even be possible?" - I know, because I remember feeling crushed by the weight of "how" for a long time. It made me feel so singular. Eventually I began exploring the question of "why" I wanted to do certain things, "why" I wanted to create, "why" I NEEDED to create, and it helped me accept and open new opportunities for myself. Take the hand that has been dealt to you and transmute it into something that will benefit you.

How do you feel the media can better represent young artists?

By making aware that a photo, a piece of artwork, and all created works in between, are more than just pretty images, more than just certain aesthetics - to really project the story and background that lives within those pixels or shapes or words. To not only focus on just the technicality or the execution, but also on the catalyst for why something is written or made.

Any specific goals for Teen Dream?

Stay tuned! xx



Teen Dream runs from September 30th - October 2nd, at Parasol Projects, 2 Rivington Street, NYC.

JERSEY CLUB KWEEN UNIIQU3 on the scene going international

JERSEY CLUB KWEEN UNIIQU3 on the scene going international