Youth Art Engagement Project – Part 2/3


Hey guys! Today we will be continuing part two of our Youth Art Engagement Project segment. Yesterday Emily and Ian’s art statements demonstrated to us their creative expressions of the sexual exploitation of children and youth. Today, we will be showing you artists statements from Jaedyn and Megha so please enjoy!

The following projects and artist statements are pieces that were created by each facilitator and the Program Coordinator that reflect a personal response to the sexual exploitation of children and youth throughout our communities.

Title: Question Marks the Spot, by Jaedyn Starr

Medium/materials: Sculpture,  hands and earth, specifically modeling clay on pink and red construction paper

I wanted to acknowledge the voices in sexual exploitation that do not get heard. The people who do not have a voice because they may no longer actually have a voice as a result of sexual exploitation. They may have been murdered or abused to the point that they no longer have the strength to break the silence and speak. This piece is to recognize these truths and that many voices will never be heard and perhaps never even speak. The lips with the line through them symbolizes this silence.

The question mark is to acknowledge that we cannot speak for someone else’s experience. We cannot fully understand someone else, let alone speak for someone else if we have not been in their shows. The lips and inner question mark are surrounded by a wall, composed of many barriers. These barriers contribute to the silencing and work together to divide us. The person who appears on the outside is upside down and cannot see as their lips cover their face. They are all talk and no see. This person is upside down because they cannot really see what is going on within the barriers and do not know that they are upside down because they cannot hear the silence, the voices that cannot speak. This person has a voice but is beside a question mark to symbolize all of the unknown that they are surrounded by. They use silence, voice and knowledge in this piece to demonstrate the information asymmetry within sexual exploitation.

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Title: Hot Mess, by Meghan Toal

Medium/materials: Acrylic, spray paint and collage on canvas

Recently I have been thinking a lot about what it means to bring a boy into the world and the way that this related to the maintenance of oppressive systems in our culture, particularly in regard to the role of men of privilege as oppressors in these systems. When I learned I was having a boy a few months ago I felt a shameful sense of relief. When through this work I am constantly faced with the negative outcomes of the oppressive gender binary on young women– those being low self-worth, hyper sexualisation and increased representation as victims of violence etc.– I felt eased by the potential that my child would not necessarily be inherently faced with these barriers and challenges. This, however, was a fleeting feeling that was quickly replaced with an epiphany wherein I realized the overwhelming responsibility of raising boys within the same oppressive gender system that stigmatizes women.

We constantly are addressing the demand created by predominantly men as being foundational to sexual exploitation and the sex industry. We discuss demand as the result of the way we, as a culture, socialize our children in particularly gendered ways and normalize unproductive dynamics between men and women. How do we combat the forces of mass media and hegemonic cultural understandings of gendered roles as a parent or educator in order to provide a child and opportunity to be anything or anyone they choose? It is an overwhelming prospect when real change will only begin when we start to socialize our oppressors differently and take responsibility for the pathologies that we produce. It is time for a social movement where young men and boys unlearn and are untaught the toxic gendered social habits that lead to not only women’s oppression but also their own.

This piece represents this struggle. I began by starting with a yellow base, a colour most commonly understood to be gender neutral. We all start as yellow; however, as we grow in the world this becomes complicated by our cultural understandings of men and women, wherein we enter the ‘hot mess’ that is gender identity. The black dot in the middle represents my child, and contains my fingerprint. As we grow the blue begins to swirl out from the black dot representing a prescribed gendered identity on a baby boy that can lead to oppressive behavior. The colour swirl represents my challenge as a parent to combat this assumption and expectations of a specific gender performance as a means of offering my son the opportunity for more and to be more. The colour swirls from blue to green to orange and finally to bright pink—a colour typically understood to represent the most feminine qualities. The overlay of collage represents the possible negative outcomes for our children if we fail in this re-socialization: a continuation of the individuals struggle to meet physical and social gendered expectations that lead to not only a disconnected identity but also violence and oppressive behavior where all parties, male and female, continue to invest in their own oppression.


Stay tuned tomorrow for our third and final segment, featuring artist statements by Andrea and Larissa. Thank you for reading and please tell us know what you think – we love to read your comments!


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