Mature Work From Young Artists

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Just 18 years old, artist Geige Silver has a lot to say. Most recently, she has spoken her mind visually, by creating two unconventional dresses: one made from rice bags, the other with 500 condoms.

What began as the Ross School student’s senior project to make clothes from unusual objects transformed into so much more, she said on Monday during a telephone interview. One of those surprising developments includes Ms. Silver’s work hanging in Guild Hall’s 21st annual “Student Art Festival Part II,” an exhibit featuring more than 300 works from local high school students, which will remain on view through Sunday, April 14, at the East Hampton-based museum.

Ms. Silver’s aim is to make artwork that provokes the viewer to think, she said.

Constructed from six 25-pound rice bags, the mannequin wearing her dress, “See the World Through a Grain of Rice,” is fitted with a blue-painted, plastic pig mask, juxtaposing the staple food with gluttony.

“I thought the pig added an extra dimension to the dress and the meaning of it,” Ms. Silver explained. “How there’s people who need to stop thinking about all the foods they all eat and they should start thinking about the people that have, really, nothing.”

The second dress, “Wrapped Up,” is also geared to challenge its audience, especially Ms. Silver’s generation, she said. She wants them to take some time to consider HIV and AIDS.

It took her 24 hours to hand sew 500 condoms to her muslin pattern, Ms. Silver reported, but the final product—which is fitted with a metallic unicorn mask, which was not intended to be phallic, she noted—was worth the effort.

“The unicorn was supposed to represent purity and virginness, and how it’s this mystical creature, but people don’t really follow abstinence or really waiting anymore,” she said. “It’s supposed to bring back childhood memories of a more pure, fantasy world. And it’s not commentary that it’s bad, but that times have changed and given how teenagers now have a lot of sex, they need to be aware of the consequences that can have if it’s unsafe.”

During the exhibition’s opening night earlier this month, the piece received mixed reactions, she said. Younger kids flocked to the dress, some of them even toyed with the condoms, she said. When they questioned their parents, “What is this?” some responded truthfully, while others replied, “They’re balloons.”

“A lot of people really liked the condom dress and were very surprised by it,” she laughed. “I mean, a lot of people were surprised that that kind of a piece would be in a school setting. But I think it’s really important for high schoolers to be aware of their actions.”

There are literally hundreds of thought-provoking pieces on view at this exhibition at Guild Hall, made by talented young artists, Assistant Curator Michelle Klein said last week during a tour of the museum.

“These are the artists of the future,” she said. “Come check it out for five minutes and I guarantee you’ll be here for a half hour. The work here will blow your mind.”

The artwork won’t stop at two- and three-dimensional pieces. On April 14, the high school exhibit will close with the 10th annual “Student Film Contest Awards Ceremony and Screening,” which will feature the winning movies of 23 submitted by East End students in second through twelfth grade.

“We want to see bold, new voices and filmmakers who are taking a chance,” Hamptons International Film Festival Artistic Director David Nugent—who will be judging the selection alongside Marion Weiss, Dennis Fabiszak and Seth Redlus—said during a telephone interview last week. “We’re so saturated in our culture with moving images that I think, unfortunately—and I was probably guilty of this as a child, too—we take it for granted and don’t think about it critically. What are these images and what do they mean? Once a filmmaker starts to make his or her own images, they will be really smart in considering the imagery around them.”

When filmmaker Jani Gruen was handed hours of footage last summer and commissioned to edit it down into a 20-minute documentary, the project made her take a close look at an ugly slice of history: the Holocaust. Her documentary shares the stories told by a handful of Jewish, Long Island-based survivors.

“Even though some of them have a sense of humor, it’s depressing. It is depressing to listen to all of these World War II stories,” the 18-year-old Pierson High School senior, who also attends the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Career and Technical Education film program, said during a telephone interview on Monday. “I found that I had an attachment with everybody who was speaking. I’m a very visual person, so I tried to visualize myself there. It’s difficult to understand what was really being done to these people. It’s really awful. It’s amazing that they survived.”

During the six-month process, Ms. Gruen got to know each of the subjects through their interviews, she said, and realized that each of their stories needed to be heard.

“No matter if you’re Jewish or Christian or whatever, this should never happen again. There are people in the world today who think there wasn’t a Holocaust and it’s terrible to deny that because these people are living proof,” she said. “I feel like I have a mission to reach out to future generations and portray messages that will inspire them and inspire people of the current day.”

The 21st annual “Student Art Festival Part II,” with work by students in high school, will remain on view through Sunday, April 14, at Guild Hall in East Hampton. The exhibit will close with the 10th annual “Student Film Contest Awards Ceremony and Screening” at 6:30 p.m. that night in the John Drew Theater. Admission to the exhibit and the awards ceremony and screening is free. For more information, call 324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.

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