Transient Teens

Exiled….ostracized…put on a bus…shamed……dead. Gone.

These sum up my current fascination with characters in teen television…how we deal with loss, goodbyes, change, closure, and death…through the vehicle of teen television programming.

More to come…

Poor Jenny Humphrey, 10×10

Here’s my second painting in my  freshly started ‘Poor Little J’ series.  If you want to see it in person, it will be on display at “Go Small” at the Distillery Gallery this thursday in South Boston.

Poor Jenny Humphrey, Acrylic and Ink on Panel, 2011

Jenny Humphrey is giving Brenda Walsh and run for her money.

If you  have followed my blog for any length at time,  it’s probably been brought to your attention that both Shannen Doherty as Brenda Walsh is a master on-screen-teen-crying…and that this is something I am fascinated by. Well Brenda, I think someone has taken the reigns for the next generation. It is none other than Taylor Momsen as Jenny Humphrey from Gossip Girl.

Taylor Momsen has every right to take the reigns from Shannen Doherty.  Like Shannen Doherty her personal like ‘drama’,..or more so..being young and snarky in the public eye, overshadows her tv drama.  Its been 20 years since Brenda Walsh first graced our televisions with her red-eyes/snotty-nosed/wet-cheeked presence.  Jenny Humphrey, or  affectionately/hatefully called “Little J” ,  brings in teen tv crying into the next century with style & bite.  She is not just crying for us about break-ups from high school loves…her priorities and successes/failures lie elsewhere  . She is crying for utter social destruction, for losing her virginity to an asshole (not her boyfriend/or exboyfriend), for falling from the social graces of NYC elite circles…and for her flaws being flaunted across the internet via gossip blogs.  To top it off, she does all this with some damn awesome runny-eyeliner creating a racoon-eyed teen cry tragedy.   Could we really ask for anything more?

Jenny Humphrey/Taylor Momsen…you truly deserve to take over the reigns of Teen Queen of TV Tears…and I thank you for that.  Please enjoy the following examples.

While Little J may currently be on hiatus from Gossip Girl, I expect that when she comes back it will be with a vengeance of tears….just how I like it.


9.02.10 Teen TV Residue Gallery Opening: RECAP

9.02.10:Teen TV Residue opening at the Distillery Gallery in South Boston last week.  There was a good turn out, despite the near 100 degree weather, moving day for much of Boston, and the fact that this was my first post college/non-cafe gallery show….and of course, the usual last minute chaos.  In the hindsight, the show could have been bigger, better, gone more smoothly etc…but the bottom line is that it happened, and folks enjoyed it…..and it was good.

Among many things, including strong pieces, strong artists, and a strong turn out for the show, one of the things I am most proud of about the 9.02.10 show is that it started from something very personal and became thing universal.  The unfortunate part is I realized the unversitility late in the game, thus. lst minute.  Still, we delivered….from  Jessica Pollak’s shadobowboxes of the men of Buffy,

The Men of Buffy: Oz, Angel, Spike-by Jessica Pollak (courtesy the DistilleryGallery Flickr

to Mary Fay Holt‘s Virginity Lost Specimens..

"Last" By Mary Fay Holt. (Includes Alex P. Keaton, Spike Nelson, Brenda Walsh, Buffy Summers, & Blair Waldorf)

Independently we also had a Jordan Catalano (“Hunky Dreamboat”) by Tony Bevilacqua and an Angela Chase (..can like, narrate”) by Cassandra long.  Robert daVies tied it all together by painting the thought/speech bubbles

"My So Called Life Installation" by Tony Bevilacqua, Robert daVies, & Cassandra Long

We also had a collaborative project amongst studio 11, spearheaded by Nick Ward & Mary Fay Holt…an interactive teen bedroom.  You could write notes to your high school crushes, or to anyone, rummage through this fictional teens things, or just hang out and remember what it was like.

"Becca loves Zach" -Studio 11 Colloboration

Across from the teen room, Kelsey Jarboe’s piece “Makeup Takedown” contained a video loop of YouTube videos of female teens dressing up their straight male friends in drag.  Participants were allowed to sit down, and dress themselves up too

"Makeup Takedown" by Kelsey Jarboe

And of course…there was my 90210 pieces, Some crying Brendas, a stoic Branda, and of course…Donna Martin Graduates.

Brenda,Brandon,Brenda-Elizabeth Grammaticas

Brenda Walsh is Crying!-Elizabeth Grammaticas

Donna Martin Graduates!-Elizabeth Grammaticas

and of course, let’s not forget…our very own Peach Pit

Peach Pit at the Distillery

All and all, we put together an enjoyable, fun show….thank you everyone who participated…thank you everyone who came, and thank you everyone who’s interest we caught for future shows.  For a first show, I say we did a good job folks. More on the after party and studio 11 events to come….

The 9.02.10:Teen TV Residue Gallery Opening is Coming…..

Press Release:

The Distillery Gallery Presents:
“9.02.10: Teen TV Residue”
September 2 – October 7, 2010
Opening Reception: Thursday, Sept 2, 6 -9pm
free and open to the public
516 E 2nd St., first floor
contact: Scott Chasse, gallery director
(978) 270-1904 /
Gallery Hours: Mon-Sat, 9-5

9.02.10: Teen TV Residue

The hit television series Beverly Hills, 90210 premiered 20 years ago. To mark the anniversary of this cultural phenomenon, The Distillery Gallery presents 9.02.10: Teen TV Residue. The exhibit focuses not only on the impact of the 90210 sensations of past and present, but on the impact of teen television as a whole. Artists’ reactions to additional shows like My So-Called Life, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Gossip Girl invite the viewer to fathom the idea that you don’t have to still be a teenager to feel the impact of teen TV.

For a few overlapping generations in the U.S, it may be very difficult for someone not to have an opinion on Beverly Hills, 90210. The original version was the first U.S. soap opera specifically aimed at teens. It chronicled epically dramatic relationships and friendships of the cast while tackling topical teen issues. Any sort of problem or lesson tended to be solved in a single episode where, no matter what, these privileged teens prevailed against their trials and tribulations. The candy-coated nature of the show made difficult issues digestible by presenting the Beverly Hills, 90210 version of life’s difficulties, as ridiculous as those versions may have been. Luckily, the average viewer usually prefers the ridiculous and the colorful over the cruel and painful, as does the American public.

9.02.10: Teen TV Residue presents recent works and pieces created specifically for the exhibit by Elizabeth Grammaticas, Jessica Pollak, Kelsey Jarboe, Mary Fay Holt, Matt Bennett, Nick Ward, Robert daVies, Cassandra Long, and Tony Bevilacqua.

Please join us for the opening reception on September 2nd (9/02/10), from 6-9pm.

The Sad Girls of Pop!

I have a tendency to want to ignore images/media/people that are culturally over-saturated.  I am aware this can be just as bad as liking something just because everyone else does.  I am working on this problem, to the point where I end up challenging myself to like something, or least understand whether my aversion is legitimate or not…and what my reasons for said aversion actually are.  Such previous high-class examples are The Girls Next Door, Hannah Montana, and honestly, Beverly Hills 90210. Plus, life is much easier when you can find interest in the things you see everywhere.  This is also part of my reason for loving John Waters so much.  His life’s work is an extreme version of this; he takes the lowest of society and finds passion and interest within.   Ridiculous as this may be, I find this to be a valuable life s

Due to the aforementioned reasons, for a while I could not pay much attention to Pop Art.  I’d fine it aesthetically pleasing, but after seeing endless Warhol prints on just about anything, it becomes hard to look at it objectively.  I avoided an in depth look at pop art for some time, but my current bodies of work have forced me to change this stance.

Warhol's Marilyns

There’s the blatantly obvious, Marilyn Monroe.  Warhol’s portraits of Monroe, along with Jackie Kennedy, Judy Garland, and other tragic golden ladies,  allude to the pain and identification with the individuals, but with a firm level of removal.  It’s not exactly easy to put oneself in the same category as Marilyn Monroe etc, despite the humanity of these icons.  They are still icons, unattainable but we are still able to project our own associations.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Crying Girls series is drawn from distressed females in comics books,  thus making the pain of these both anonymous and universal.  Lichtenstein paints these modified comic panel pieces as individual images, and by taking out of the context he changes the meaning.  We are given very select clues on how and why these ladies are distressed.   Richard Prince demonstrated this point with his artist book, pairing up Lichtenstein’s girls with pulp-lady novel covers, completely redirecting the interpretation of said images even more.

Lichtenstein Crying Girl

With my Beverly Hills, 90210/Teen Trauma body of work, I am finding myself straddled between these two ends of the spectrum.  Brenda Walsh is a fictional tv character, yet the actress and the show are fairly recognizable.  At least, to the general public more identifiable than the specific ladies of Lichtenstein, but no where as epically recognizable as Jackie Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe. While most of can identify with some Monroean tragedy, distraught comic beautiful blonds, but it is Brenda Walsh that we see ourselves in.  She’s imperfect, she’s loved, she’s hated.  We can relive her ups and downs, break-ups and betrayals…..and she cries enough about life for all of us.   Brenda Walsh’s pain is our modern middle ground.

Brenda Walsh

(Also, just for fun. Let’s look at Britney Spears shaving her head again. )

Crying like…a Teenager.

Brenda Walsh is Crying, Once More! Mixed Media. 7/2010

Crying affects all of our lives.   Whether its around you, or it’s your own self…you can’t ignore the cry.  Sure, you can repress it.  Sure, you can fake it, but most of the can’t control it.  Unless of course you are an actor, and more importantly, an actor in a teen TV show.  In that case, you are a pro.

I don’t think anyone cries more than the characters in teen TV soaps/dramas.  Whether their lives are actually dramatic (Beverly Hills, 90210, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or they just teen-perspective dramatic (My So-Called Life)…there’s always the drama…and with the drama, come the tears.  Teens are in transitions with everything, and crying certainly is one of them.  They are no longer ‘children’ that are somewhat oblivious to crying etiquette, and not quite adults who are aware of the social role of crying, and have that structure embedded in their systems.

There is a freedom in crying as a teen.  You know more about what is worth crying about.  You also know more about how crying affects other people, you know how to work it, and you have the freedom to get away with  not caring when its ‘inappropriate’.  You are still, ‘just a kid’, but you have those pesky ‘adult’ (seeming) problems.   You are totally free to cry over being stood up on a date like half your family was murdered.  That’s power.    Teen crying is epic, so no wonder TV producers love it so damn much.

Ode to awesome teen tv crying take 1 : Beverly Hills 90210

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Oh no! Brenda Walsh is Crying Again

So my Beverly Hills, 90210: Teen Pop Culture & Trauma series is finally getting underway.  This is my first body of work I am premiering in Boston.  I have a lot of work ahead of me. My drawing/paintings skills are definitely rusty, and it will take a lot of work to churn out images of the quality I want. This is perfect, because this is a body of work I am insanely passionate about doing…which exactly the kick I needed to get my art game back on.

As a teen, my favorite TV shows had a huge impact on my life.  When my life unlike that of my surrounding peers, I was able to connect with them week to week on relating to our favorite shows.  The shows also worked as an escape, and as friend.  For me, it was Buffy Summers, always feeling like the world was going to end, or someone might die.  This TV show of vampires and teenage heroines felt more like my life/what I was feeling than anything else around me.  Also, those undead metaphors made it easier for me to deal with the actual dead…but let’s not go into vampire studies now.

I was too young to be of the original Beverly Hills, 90210 generation. The show’s lifespan was the entire decade of the ’90s. The show has now recently been syndicated for SoapNet, where at any given day the show airs not once, not twice, but four times.  Also, don’t forget the CW’s new version, 90210 reaching out to a new generation of fans, while still featuring a few of the original’s iconic characters.  For a few overlapping generations in the U.S, it’s very difficult for someone not to have an opinion on this show.

Beverly Hills, 90210 was the first U.S. soap opera specifically aimed at teens.  It straddled chronicling the epically dramatic relationships and friendships of the cast, along with topical teen issues.  Any sort of problem or lesson tended to be solved in an episode.  No matter what, these privileged teens prevailed against their trials and tribulations.  Things always end up okay, at least for the main characters.  The candy-coated nature of the show makes difficult issues digestible.  You end up seeing the Beverly Hills, 90210 version of life’s difficulties. ….and it’s ridiculous.  Yet your brain prefers the ridiculous and the colorful over the cruel and painful. So does the American public.

Why else would we love seeing Brenda/Shannen Doherty cry so much?  We love to see her cry, and for our own reasons, we need it.  We need our hollywood versions of teen pain.  So, it’s time for some paintings of this. Cry Brenda Cry!

Above. “Brenda Walsh is Crying, I”

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