Last summer, a few local high school students put their outgrown clothes to a more creative use than the traditional hand-me-down.
From late June to mid July, 17 Connecticut high school students deconstructed hundreds of garments in collaboration with the artist Jean Shin to create the “Ensemble” installation, on display this week at the Artspace gallery on Orange Street. The exhibition — supported by a variety of nonprofit organizations and endowment funds, including Yale — is a product of Artspace’s annual Summer Apprentice Program.
Founded six years ago, the program aims to give the next generation of artists a head start by providing an opportunity for local students to conceive and execute a large-scale installation, Artspace gallery director Denise Markonish said. Each year, Markonish said, representatives from Artspace canvass local high schools to recruit interested students, and participants are then selected based on enthusiasm and individual potential.
Shin, whose work has been exhibited in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, had the apprentices select articles of clothing which were in some way personally significant to the students. The artist and the students reduced the garments to their “skeletons”, Markonish said. They lopped off seams, lapels and sleeves and attached them to form what she described as a “web of interconnectedness.”
Each strip of cloth in the installation, from crisp poplin to Catholic schoolgirl plaid, represents the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the participants.
Nick Pfaff, a senior at Hamden High School, chose a pair of old pajamas that he said reminded him of his childhood insecurities.
“My friend and I used to sneak out [at night] to look at the rich people’s houses on St. Ronan [Street],” Pfaff said.
Mohamed Badawi, a student at Regional Career High School, said he donated a traditional Muslim vest called a “thop” because it represented his culture.
Pfaff said the program, which represented a radical departure from his traditional curriculum, cemented his decision to attend art school after graduation.
“Installation art is not something you get to do as a high school student,” he said. “At Hamden, art is something you have to take to get it out of the way.”
The University facilitated the exhibition by supplying the youth program with a Yale Presidential Fellow, Rebecca Rindler DRA ’08. Rindler said the project was about making art accessible to students from local high schools.
“In school, [students] are used to this idea of ‘high art’,” Markonish said. “They think that art is something you do with oils and canvas. But everything is art.”