Fragility, resilience, complex identities are focus of art by 2 LA teens

Written by Lindsay Preston-Zappas

Minnie Lerner, left, has been collecting vintage lingerie and integrating it into her artwork. Arianna Louie, right, wants her artwork to help her community. Photos courtesy of Minnie Lerner and Arianna Louie.

This week, KCRW’s Young Creators Project is highlighting the work of two visual artists who spoke to Lindsay Preston-Zappas, founder and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles.

Minnie Lerner is a 16-year-old lesbian, artist, poet, DJ, curator, copy editor, zinester, and postmodernist. Inspired by Riot Grrrl and grunge fashion, she has been collecting vintage lingerie and has recently been integrating it into her artwork. Her sculpture is a pink corset that has been ripped and shredded. It barely hangs together from a hanger, and is feebly embroidered with a bright pink thread that dangles with the bodice’s lacing. The piece evokes a powerful broken emotion — heightened by the symbolism achieved through the destruction of a clothing item that signifies female beauty, sexuality, and even subjugation. 

In our conversation, Lerner explained that when she made this artwork, she had been suffering from anorexia, yet somehow was able to turn to this piece for solace. At times, it was physically taxing to make, but she slowly continued. She said that the final result was “a piece so powerful and evocative of my pain [that others] understood it as a cry for help” — the piece was able to communicate the state she was in with those around her. Yet now, when she looks at the work, she sees her own strength. She says the sculpture “serves as a reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.” 

Sixteen-year-old Chinese Korean American Arianna Louie makes art in many mediums but often gravitates towards painting. “I love to incorporate my cultures and my experiences into any medium of work but especially painting.” Her submission for Young Creators Project began as a self-portrait of her current 16-year-old self. Yet, Louie collaged an enlarged photograph of herself as a toddler over her painted face. The image is sliced in half, revealing her painted portrait below — in places, eyes, mouths and noses of her young and current self are doubled to express a fractured multiplicity.

Louie talks about her work as a reflection on the time and space between the two portraits, and the collage also speaks to the complexities of our inner worlds — each of our identities is unique and shaped by our family, experiences, and culture. In creating a piece that looked back at her former self, Louie’s work also speaks to the larger diaspora, and celebrates multiplicity. “Though I'm not sure what the future will bring to me,” Louie says, “I know that surely I want to work for my communities and use my art as a means to accomplish that.”