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A Beautiful “Passing Period,” and Mourning an Untimely Passing

The general public can enjoy the Idyllwild Arts Academy Junior Group Show at https://www.idyllwildartsgallery.org/passing-period-junior-show from January 17 to January 28. Yet this online viewing will reveal how the young visual artists have benefited from exiting the virtual world to work shoulder to shoulder with one another.     

As Class of 2023 members Minty Kuri and Minmin Su write, in their Exhibition Statement on behalf of all two dozen participating artists, “we are experiencing our first full year of school without the challenges of online learning.” Permitted since the end of August “to work with our teachers, each other, and in the actual studios to achieve our creative visions,” Kuri and Su and their classmates have crafted pieces that bear the marks of the fully immersive arts education that was unavailable during the coronavirus pandemic’s first year. The young artists are proud of having worked hard to “improve and hone our skills from home.” But nothing can replace in-person instruction—even if the faces are masked—in a setting where teachers and students can roll up their sleeves together for the purpose of making art.    

The students’ pride in their achievement is surpassed by the pride of their teachers. Visual Arts Department Chair Linda Lucía Santana, speaking for the Academy’s entire faculty of working artists, calls attention to how this Junior Group Show “displays a hunger for tactility, materiality, and a deep sense of introspection” and also “showcases our students’ resilience in a constantly changing landscape.”     

It is that relentlessly changing landscape, destabilized by the pandemic’s ebb and flow, which gives the Junior Group Show its title, Passing Period. Kuri and Su write of regarding “the past two years as one long passing period,” expressing the hope of billions of people that the Time of COVID can soon be put behind us, to be seen only in the rearview mirror.    

On the other hand, the pandemic has left some things exactly as they had always been. Apart from the pandemic, Kuri and Su observe, the junior year of high school is a year of “adaptation” that “marks a transition towards our final year of high school and onward to college and beyond.” The junior year marks a transition from childhood to adulthood as “the first year we have had to learn to actually take ourselves seriously.”

This part of the students’ Exhibition Statement betrays the uncertainty attending the passage to adulthood for almost all of us. But their teachers’ judgment upon how the students are negotiating this passage should remove the uncertainty. Santana notes that Passing Period “encapsulates a wide range of emotions beautifully and thoughtfully articulated.

Loss of a Young Artist

Tragically, the emotions expressed by Passing Period have been altered by the unexpected death of one of the young artists. The Junior Group Show is now dedicated to the memory of eleventh-grade student Wang Ngai “Sophia” Ying (February 13, 2005 – December 25, 2021). 

Sophia’s ceramic installation, “Coexistence,” on display in Parks Exhibition Center, represents a culmination of her three years of study at the Academy, during which she took particular interest in the ceramic medium. “Coexistence” is a reflection on the codependency of two seemingly unrelated species, boa constrictor and pitcher plants. 

“This work shows that two species depend on one another to survive on earth even though they have nothing to do with each other,” Sophia wrote in her artist statement. “Just like the chain of life, when one of these things is broken, the whole chain is affected.” 

A tribute to Sophia by Idyllwild Arts students, faculty, and staff will be held at the closing reception for Passing Period, on Friday, January 28, at 6 pm.

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