Last week my friend S. and I took our kids to an exhibit of student art at our local university. The shows were by senior students about to finish undergraduate degrees in Fine Arts.
My daughter and S.’s son have been friends since they were three years old. Glad to get out on a school day afternoon, they were initially skeptical about an art gallery.
As we walked around, I saw pieces that were interesting and some that seemed to show real talent. But the collection that took me in was the one the kids are looking at here.
It’s by a young woman named Lindsey Weber. Her theme: a universal fear system—primarily as seen in her age group.
Before you stop reading, go on a little further. I think you might be captivated as I was.
Here’s an excerpt from the artist’s statement:
Shared memories of campy horror movies and teenage insecurities pool into the unconscious of twenty-somethings, creating a virtually universal fear system. Drawing imagery from horror movies, beauty product advertising and personal nightmares, my work attempts to label and categorize the fears and insecurities of Generations X and Y.
…. I hope to explore my theories of a universal fear system by comparing and indexing the fears of all generations of people.
Ms Weber created her exhibit around elementary school themes, like old library cards and letters of the alphabet. Here are some of the images.
In addition to these, the artist created a way for viewers to participate in her fear survey.
She made a Phobos, or Fear, Index, out of a falling-apart sign-out book from an old library. She set this up on an old classroom desk in the corner and invited visitors to:
….contribute to my study and write your fears in the fear index.
I liked this. I have to admit my first response was that there might not be many takers, though.
My daughter, H., wanted to do it. Here she is recording her fears. She told me later that’s she’s indeed afraid of clowns like those in the first painting (and which look to me like the one in “Poltergeist”). And she’s afraid of global warming.
Finally I sat down to look at the book. I didn’t write down my own fear until later. But the entries there drew me in right away. I took out my camera and made a lot of photos. I make no assumptions about any of them. Some might have been tongue in cheek, while others clearly were not.
These pages brought back all the insecurities and personal angst of my own twenty-something years, which were the most awful of my life. Nearly every fear listed was one of personal power, personal strength, intimacy—all the things that certainly occupied my heart and mind in that decade.
There was one item I didn’t see written down—because, of course, why would a twenty-something write it? I wrote it myself:
In the week since we visited this show, I’ve realized that it’s not so much Old Age I fear, as What I’ve Been Told About Old Age. Much like Ms. Weber, I’m thinking about imagery I’ve absorbed since my earliest days—and the fears that imagery has created. Some of the sources are the same as the artist’s: movies (and media in general), beauty product advertising, and personal nightmares.
By naming and illustrating fears, we make them conscious; knock them down to size. Once conscious, we are free to choose new images. It turns out that a lot of the fears I had when I was twenty-five didn’t come true. Others did, but were not frightening in the end. Today I want to name my fears of the future and ask which ones are valid.
The relevance of this Phobos Index encompassed Ms Weber, my daughter, me. It made me think, feel, and connect.
Isn’t that what art is for?
All photos taken with permission of artist, Lindsey Weber. No photographs may be reproduced without permission of the artist. Text copyright The Blue Kimono. If you’re interested in contacting Ms Weber or learning more about her work, please click here.
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