apples and bananas

Book Project

Apples and bananas is a photographic series of still life, portraits and environments from several high school art classes in the United States. It is also a return to a particular place and time in my own life. When I arrived in the US from Japan as a teenager, I spent many hours in the high school art department. Not knowing much English, it was a convenient escape from tedious ESL classes where I was taught to say "See you later alligator, after a while crocodile." I enjoyed the quietness of art class, only the sound of brush strokes or the occasional whispers that I didn't understand anyways. But I remember thinking, "Why do they make me draw this apple, fish, flowers and teacup"? These "academic art exercises" are typical rituals of high school art classrooms, perhaps like the alligators and crocodiles of the ESL classes.

During my photography visits to various schools, I saw some exceptionally well-put-together works that appeared almost ready to be packed out to an art gallery. However, for this series I was most attracted to work that seems to reflect those uncertain and awkward teenage days. I carefully select and arrange the still life objects found in the classrooms, and create my own still life photograph, sometimes with the objects or the artists, perhaps re-calling my own naïve youth.

As I made these photographs, I could not avoid thinking the age-old question, "Can art be taught?" What is the appropriate up-to-date teaching method and environment for contemporary high school art classes? These photographs are not meant as documentation of these classes, but rather as a focused attempt to witness the fresh naivete, the deadpan humor and the quiet solitude that somehow comes through these ritualized exercises.