Liberated from school, an exodus of youth spills out of every orifice of Amundsen High on weekdays at 3 pm. Like schools of exotic fish, the teens flood the nearby streets. Exhibiting a cacophony of color accompanied by a soundtrack of extra-loud, crackly, pubescent voices, the teens swagger south on Damen Avenue past the window of my art studio. I used to watch the daily parade, feeling mildly annoyed for reasons only a fellow curmudgeon could understand. But then something changed in my perception: they’ve grown on me. Occasionally, a few teens knock on the window, wave hello, and even step inside for a visit. They walk around, study the art, and ask genuinely interesting and challenging questions about the work. I’m moved by their curiosity and enthusiasm.
A large Chicago public high school, Amundsen High boasts a poor academic record, and does not meet federal education standards. Before the bells rings, a protective block of police cars line the street. Needless to say, the school attracts students who do not test high enough for elite public schools, and whose families cannot afford private school. Some of the students are dealing with incredibly difficult family situations while trying to focus on passing their classes.
While a year ago I foolishly dismissed these young adults as an amorphous cast of clones, I now view these teens as unique creatures-- overgrown puppies vibrating on the precipice of adulthood, exhibiting a mix of great insecurity, naive confidence, curiosity, open-minded acceptance-- while asserting individuality any way they can. I’m fascinated by their hairdos. This rooster, titled “Sophomore,” is inspired by high school style and swagger-- window dressing on deeply thoughtful souls contemplating the future.