Expressions of self-discovery unravel through the most simple and innocent forms in “Identity & Pride: Youth Exploration of Self,” a free exhibition organized through a partnership between the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco, SF Pride and Yerba Buena Center for Arts, where the show is on display until July 14.
Created by 120 Boys & Girls Clubs members from the Western Addition, Bayview-Hunters Point, Excelsior, Tenderloin and Mission communities, the show includes 36 artworks. Each piece is essentially an answer to an introspective question, such as, Who are you?” or “How does your family and community define your reflection of self?”
The answers are shown through various media: a Pride flag reimagined and reconfigured into Batman’s heroic cape; illuminated marker and acrylic self-portraits; or basic but effective words, including “fun,” “hopeful,” “amazing,” and, capturing the spirit of the decade, “litty.”
“It’s really a continuum of how youth explore identity,” says Patricia Zamora, citywide director of creative arts for the Boys & Girls Clubs of S.F. “For a 7-year-old, it means something different than for somebody who’s 14 or 18 years of age.”
Paulina Capulin Bautista, a 14-year-old rising-sophomore in high school and active leader in the Boys and Girls Clubs, was compelled to create a block print of a woman dressed in a tuxedo ensemble, embedded in a rose-shaped aura — recalling Our Lady of Guadalupe — and stamp it across two out of 10 retired pride flags in the exhibit.
“I chose this image because it’s kind of a representation of myself,” Capulin Bautista, who identifies with the LGBTQ community, says. “Whenever I go to formal events with a club, or any big events, I usually like dressing up in a full suit rather than a formal dress.”
In another transformed Pride flag, titled “I Like Me,” middle- and high-school students put derogatory words they often hear on a collage, and placed it around attached masks — as if to reappropriate the words often used against marginalized people, and find empowerment from that.
Every section of the exhibit touches on different aspects and conversations surrounding identity that go beyond gender, sexuality and race.
For example, there’s a series of minimalistic watercolor self-portraits, with short, authoritative phrases of the current zeitgeist — “Stay litty.” “Don’t Trip.” and “Keep it simple.” — written under each, reflecting the young artists’ ability to grasp complicated topics yet maintain a healthy, positive outlook and sense of humor.
Asked if she sees her art as an outlet to express herself, Capulin Bautista answers, “I think it’s more just for fun.”
IF YOU GO
Identity and Pride: Youth Exploration of Self
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (except closed Mondays); closes July 14
Admission: $10, or free with registration at www.ybca.org
Contact: (415) 978-2700, www.ybca.org