ArtWelcome to Juvenilia, New York City's first art salon for teens
A new organization for teenage artists held its official launch party. Photographer Jennifer Loeber was on scene to report.
In New York, showing up on time to an opening is a social liability. But when we arrived early at miLES pop-up space for Teen Art Salon's official launch, a crowd had already gathered inside. "Juvenilia," the title of the exhibition, is the term used to describe an artist's youthful output—work that is, by definition, immature. In a sense, it's also kind of misleading, since a lot of what was on view here felt pretty consummate. Take, for instance, Stella Mulroney, whose photographs of beautiful boys holding cigarettes in various states of drag are so good I bought one.
The turnout was a mix of friends, family and people like us, who were too old to pass as the artists but too young to be mistaken for their parents. Upstairs, founder and curator Isabella Bustamante wove through the room dressed like a goth cheerleader. Downstairs, creative assistant Senna Lauer posed with a paper fan in front of her film reel and poems. Even in gallery lighting, Bustamante didn't look much older than Lauer and resident photographer, Jensen Foerster, both 17. Her organization supports, develops and promotes adolescent creatives, facilitating in real life what teenagers have mastered over social media. The show brings together 20 of these artists and poets, aged 13 to 19, from all over the United States.
A visitor surveys work by Mithsuca Berry (left) and Megan Schaller (right) at miLES pop-up space, 103 Allen St., New York, NY
To round out the roster, Bustamante scoured Instagram for future art stars like Lauren Tepfer, whose gauzy landscape photography is counted in teen queen Tavi Gevinson's personal collection and Celeste Cares, whose fretful oil paintings might remind you of a young Alice Neel or Maria Lassnig. "Bella is always on Instagram," said Kerry Doran, associate director of the nearby bitforms Gallery, "but not like the rest of us, as a way to pass the time. She treats it like a job." "Honestly, this stuff is better than most of what you see in Chelsea," we overheard a man in all black tell his tote-carrying companion. Instead of a bar, there was lemonade stand—a coming-of-age reminder that, for most of those in attendance, legal drinking age was still a while away.
Photographer Jennifer Loeber captured the event for Hopes&Fears.
Senna Lauer with her work
SENNA LAUER, 17, writer and filmmaker:
"Isabella was my old babysitter. She started babysitting me when she was my age and I was nine. Teen Art Salon originally started as these different random projects and ideas and graduated into a kind of collective. The work I have in the show is basically excerpts of films I've done as well as selections from my poetry. I'm almost 18 now. From 16 to 17, it's been an artistic reflection of the bullshit I've been through: my friends, my family, the culture. I want to be a writer and filmmaker, like David Lynch. Or, Hunter S. Thompson. Or, ideally, a mixture of both."
JENSEN FOERSTER, 17, photographer:
"I'm interested in portrait photography. Instead of focusing on having the most professional equipment or the most high-quality production, I like to capture a person's character. A lot of photography, nowadays, is bland because it's so glossy and retouched. I'm also looking into film production or advertising. I really like math, and would like to combine those two sides."
Stephen Michaels with work by Celeste Cares
STEPHEN MICHAELS, 17, artist:
"I've known Isabella for a while. She approached me and told me she was trying to get an organization together for youth who make art, to be a representative for getting their work out there and providing the resources for them to make it. She acts as an agent for kids who don't really know how to promote themselves outside of social media channels like Instagram. She scanned my entire sketchbook and colorized every page. I'm going to get it made into a huge prints. I also want to get into sculpture and printmaking. The things I'm into are not things you can do in an average New York City apartment. They're all very involved in terms of space. She set up her studio as a place for that kind of work to happen."
A visitor with work by Mithsuca Berry (left) and Megan Schaller (right)
A visitor with work by Mithsuca Berry (bottom)
MEGAN SCHALLER, 17, artist:
"The really cool thing about art right now is that a lot of people are using the internet to share the things they create. Growing up, the first form of art I fell in love with was Microsoft Paint. I was probably around seven. I never really stopped doing it, and over time I acquired this collection of portraits of indie musicians. Music and tech are my other two passions, besides art. I like celebrating these artists. This is my way of giving back. A lot of people look at images and objects to inspire them. I just listen to the sound."
JESSI OLARSCH, 16, artist:
"I followed a bunch of artists and posted my stuff on Instagram. Isabella reached out to me about the organization and I submitted some of my work for the exhibition, and here we are. I want to do something related to art and science—to find a happy medium. I'm still trying to figure things out. I think I have time."
Work by Senna Lauer
The open bar serving up nonalcoholic strawberry lemonade
LAUREN TEPFER, 16, photographer
"Isabella found me on Instagram and sent me a DM. She mentioned she was curating an exhibition for adolescents. At first my mom was like, 'Who is this person?' It turned out to be really legitimate and serious. After doing some research on Teen Art Salon, I was so excited to be a part of it. It's such a great lineup of artists and I can't believe I'm involved. I mostly do photography, though I'm interested in film too. I'm really obsessed with the sky, especially the transition into dusk. I love the pink colors. I always felt a strong connection to the nighttime. It's a comfort thing for me to capture the atmosphere."
Founder and curator Isabella Bustamante
The scene outside