HomeHaddonfield NewsExpressions of identity through art in Markeim student display

Expressions of identity through art in Markeim student display

Student art show features portraits, collages and more to explore identity through art

Emily Liu/The Sun
Haddonfield eighth grader Evan Strommen presents a collage he made, along with a piece by fellow eighth grader Ireland “Ivy” Borgan, both featured at Markeim Arts Center.

Haddonfield Friends School eighth grader Evan Strommen’s capstone project – an art show with the theme Expressions of Identity at Markeim Arts Center – went live on May 25.

Strommen, who came out as transgender in sixth grade, wanted to do something related to art because it’s been a really big part of his life.

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“I thought, might as well mix two important parts of me,'” he recalled. ” … I wanted to create a space where people could express themselves without judgement, mainly related to identity and whatever surrounds that, and what that means to people without worrying about what other people will be thinking about it.”

The gallery displayed some art that had also been featured in a school show earlier this year and included self-portraits, pieces from a design class project that showed contrasting identities and had themes of belonging and growing up, as well as some abstract art. Though the majority of the work was made by Haddonfield students, there were also pieces made by individuals at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia gender clinic.

Though most of the art was 2D painted art, there was one piece painted on small blocks. It was a self-portrait called “Mix,” where a girl’s face was divided into seven pieces, each painted a different color, with the central piece containing all colors. It was done by Ireland “Ivy” Borgan, another eighth grader at Haddonfield Friends who is cisgender and wanted to show different sides of herself through the colors.

“It was kind of like a short, calming art experience,” Borgan explained. “It was just kind of getting it done and thinking about who I am as a person.”

For her, each color was meant to represent a different hobby; blue is listening to music, yellow is theater, red is debate and so on.

“It’s kind of mixed together in the middle to create me as a person,” Borgan added.

On the far side of a room at Markeim was an interactive art piece that had attendees write a few words about themselves. On the floor, there was also an art collage from students age 2 to 6 at Friends, where they drew their name and expressed different parts of their identity. Some painted their handprints, others drew self portraits and their dream houses and others wrote a few words about themselves.

In total, the Markeim Center art show featured about nine artists and 15 pieces in addition to the collage. During the exhibit, some artists were also in attendance to talk about their piece.

“I hope that people see, if there’s someone there that doesn’t 100% understand, I hope they see that trans people and people of any identity are people, too,” Strommen said. “I think that’s something that causes a lot of transphobia, is not seeing past the label and just seeing them as a trans person.

“I want people to be able to see like, ‘Hi, I’m Evan, I’m trans,’ but ‘I also have a family and hobbies,’ and kind of just seeing people for people and not just seeing people for their gender, and breaking stereotypes and going outside the box a little bit.”


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