Susan Hagen's Teenager Project
Teenager Project is a series of portraits – ink and conté drawings and carved-wood sculptures – of adolescents. My goal is to study the uniqueness of real teenagers as they attempt to define their identities in modern culture. I’m interested in the ways that teens draw from a specific youth-culture vocabulary as they define their identities. They use clothing, hairstyles and accessories to show their political and cultural alliances, and express their personal sense of style. In my drawings and sculptures I try to capture the tiny details of their clothing, their hairstyles and their book bags and backpacks.
This project is especially timely because of my own personal circumstances right now. My son, Henry, is 14. I struggle every day to provide the support and structure that he needs, as well as to understand the world in which he lives. In the next few years he will change from a child to a young adult. The growth process fascinates me, and as an artist I want to investigate this process. Just as important, the project offers the opportunity to advance my process as an artist into a role as a compassionate chronicler of an important aspect of the modern world. I want to study the ways that a person’s identity develops and unfolds during adolescence, as well as their quest for self-definition and rites of passage. I’m interested in validating and recording the uniqueness of each of my participants, as well as their ambitions and struggles. While I’m committed to the journalistic aspect, this project allowed me an authentic human connection with my participants and their families.
This project was made possible by generous funding from the Independence Fellowships in the Arts.
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