'Not Good With Words' seeks to show different ways of self-expression

Expressing yourself can be especially hard if you're not good with words. However, eight photography seniors are using images to speak where words might fail them.

From the outside looking in, Kit Abate, Mac Alyea, Eunice Beck, Jodie Best, Ryan Borys, Tommy Briones, Carly Traxler and Adelaide West are a group of tight-knit friends finishing their last year of college. Yet beyond their exceptional friendships stands even more exceptional artwork. 

"Not Good With Words" is a free, week-long collaborative showcase in the ASU's Gallery 100. From science and religion to self-image and family, the exhibition explores humanity in all its glory. 

Eunice Beck 

Inspired by her love of fashion, Eunice Beck's work incorporates women, nature and aesthetics. 

"My art is simply driven by my love for fashion and people," she said.

For Beck, a love in art was instilled in her at a young age. Beck's mother was unable to pursue art in her own childhood so she made it a point to teach her children the value of it. 

Throughout her career thus far, Beck said she has struggled as a commercial photographer and feels as though she's finally doing something for herself rather than for others. 

In addition to her work in "Not Good With Words," Beck has a fashion magazine. Upon graduation, Beck said she plans to continue doing what she loves as a photographer.

Tommy Briones

Tommy Briones' work is as intimate as it gets. A series of family portraits, Briones' art digs deep to explore the delicate balance that keeps our closest relationships afloat.

"My project is something I've ignored all my life," he said.

Briones said he often couldn't recall various moments of his childhood, which inspired him to solve these family mysteries through his art.

Like many of his peers in this project, Briones said that he has always been artistically inclined. 

"You’re kind of always an artist," he said. 

He also described the project as "therapeutic" and "significantly personal," and said it allowed him to repair relationships with various family members. He hopes his work inspires others to do the same. 

Carly Traxler

Discovering who you are as an individual is something nearly everyone can relate to. Carly Traxler's work analyzes this rite of passage in a way many students will connect with.

Traxler also said her art covers the importance of not only discovering yourself personally, but finding out how you fit into the world around you.

"It's about forming your identity against other people within intimate relationships," she said. 

Traxler said that she hopes her work motivates others to accept themselves and be who they truly are, as she has done, and continues to do.

"I think my own journey toward self discovery has been a long process," she said. "I think it has forced me to be more self aware." 

Like her fellow artists on this project, Traxler is a senior and said she is excited to graduate. She said that she looks forward to truly making art for herself outside of the classroom setting. 

"You get one life and you just want to be happy," Traxler said simply.

Carly Traxler | Courtesy photo
Adelaide West

The saying goes that there is no better friend than a sister and this phrase rings more than true for Adelaide West. Her contribution to "Not Good With Words" is an ode to all things sisterhood.

Like Briones, West's project is personal and comes from the heart, focusing on her own relationship with her sister who is two years younger than her. 

"As artists, I think a lot of our work comes from our personal experiences," she said. "It helps me to work through ideas and feelings that I have."

She said she and her sister have been best friends since childhood. However, as time went on, West began to worry that her relationship with her sister might change. West channeled these feelings into her pieces, exploring themes of dependency, maturity, aging and the roles siblings play in each other's lives.

West said that she hopes attendees of the exhibit will appreciate the effort she and her fellow artists have taken in creating this project. 

"I think that there’s a lot of vulnerability and honesty, and I hope that people recognize that ... and be honest and vulnerable themselves."

Kit Abate

Attendees of the exhibition might be surprised that a trip to the doctor is what inspired Kit Abate's art. Abate said that her work is meant to delve into emotions that we typically try to ignore: discomfort, anxiety, fear and more. 

Abate said that this experience made her realize that although she knows what makes herself uncomfortable, she was interested in finding out what triggers that for others as well. 

"Something that may cause you anxiety may also cause someone else anxiety as well," she said. "Unique experiences are universal."

Abate said that, for her, photography was always a new and enlightening experience.

"When you're an artist and you're a maker and you constantly make work … it’s consistent and constant self discovery." she said. 

She discovered her passion for art at a young age, and explained that through it she has gained valuable skills.

"As a kid, I always felt like I was a something and it wasn’t until I knew what an artist was that I was like, 'Oh, I’m that,'" Abate explained.

Abate's said her personal mantra is, "Given the choice between two things, always do the one that makes you feel uncomfortable," and that she hopes this translates through her work in "Not Good With Words." She said she finds it important to run at life head on and not shy away from anything. 

"My work got a lot better when I started dealing with things I didn’t wanna deal with."

Kit Abate | Courtesy photo

Ryan Borys

Ryan Borys said he has always been intrigued by the sciences or, to use his words, "anything with an -ology." Borys' pieces involve a range of thought-provoking subjects from life and death to parallel universes and gravity.

"It's a creative world where thought and critical thinking of the environment make connections that you normally wouldn’t," he said.

In this world, Borys said that curiosity and free thinking are encouraged. Whether it be reincarnation or other dimensions, Borys wants his art to open up doors that were once closed. 

Borys shared that his family went through a traumatic experience, which sparked his experience in exploring death, life and possible after life.

"The whole point of the photographs is to make these connections in exploring the unknown ... and to encourage the person to make these connections, too." he said.

He said he wants people to look at the world more critically and not be shy about voicing their opinions.

Jodie Best

Often times, one of the biggest struggles women go through in life is reconciling their self-image. Best's art is a series of portraits that focus on aging, body image and matriarchy, particularly among middle-aged women. 

In her artist's statement, Best explained the power and strength that she sees in the matriarchal role, particularly in that of her mother. 

"My art has a specific audience of middle-aged women to appreciate their bodies in a society that that’s not necessarily easy," she said.

Best said that as an artist, she and her peers have gained tools and talents that are useful no matter the field. Critical thinking and problem-solving are ones that Best specifically cites as something art schools, especially the Herberger Institute develops in their students.

Best said that ultimately she hopes that "Not Good With Words" will spark more creativity and art from those who attend.

"Be inspired to make work from the work you see," she said, to which the entire group agreed. 

Mac Alyea

Through a plethora of street photos, Mac Alyea said his contribution intends to shed a light on common, every day elements that shape our world yet are taken for granted. 

Alyea, who has been photographing for five years, said he started with exploring downtown Phoenix. He said he wanted his art to show every day moments that let the viewer stop and experience different things they might otherwise pass up.

This photographer said this exhibition forced him to really step outside of his boundaries. In creating his photographs, Alyea said the outcome was beyond what he initially expected. He said he photographed strangers and skyscrapers alike, amazed at the beauty he found. 

Alyea said "Not Good With Words" also helped him to handle critiques and "truly put himself out there."

"I hope that people can take away the beauty of every day things," he said.

The exhibit's opening reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 29 and runs until April 1 at ASU Gallery 100 in Tempe.

Related links:

'Platinum' brings tasteful photography showcase to Phoenix Art Museum

Student creates world of her own through photography


Reach the reporter at nlilley@asu.edu or follow her @noelledl on Twitter.

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