BELFAST— One portrait that recently hung in the Waterfall Arts’ Young Artists Gallery Takeover last month is a scream. No, not as in funny, but as a literal scream, a portrayal of a man’s mouth in silhouette, and from that mouth dozens of words fly out. They all give a window into the level of pressure teens still feel when it comes to fitting in.
Ayla Fitzjurls, named after the the prehistoric heroine of Clan of the Cave Bear, is the artist behind three collages that underscore this pressure.
The collage, entitled “Falling: A Note To Anyone,” incorporates a collage of cut-out-of-magazine words to lay the foundation of impossible expectations, often self-imposed at this age.
The collage is part of her 12th grade art project this semester at Belfast Area High School.
“We had the choice to do whatever we wanted, as long as it was a series,” said Ayla. “The collage at Waterfall Arts was actually second in the series. My theme was ‘falling.’ My first piece was about falling from society, being bullied, and being an outcast. The Waterfall Arts piece was about mentally falling, depression and loneliness. And the third sculpture, a 3-D mobile, shows physical feeling of falling.”
As a child, Ayla was encouraged by art teacher Linda Stec, at Starrett Childrens’ Center across from Waterfall Arts.
“As Linda also worked at Waterfall Arts at the time, she allowed me to take some of her classes for free,” said Ayla. “She really started my interest in the arts and showed how to do ceramics and sculpture— things that really opened up my world.”
One of her first projects through Waterfall Arts was to make a cardboard dress, part of C.B.A.R.F. (Cardboard Boxes Are Really Fun): a community art party.
As Ayla grew up, she gravitated more toward ceramics and sculpture. More on that in a bit, but back to the first collage, which depicts a man in the maw of what looks like a jagged cave or a mouth, and all around him are faces, mostly Photoshopped to perfection.
“I I chose to cut out more faces of women, because I definitely think there is more drama between them and more bullying with women,” said Ayla. “The lone figure below is reacting by walking into the thick of all of these faces. In our school, I notice guys are more apt to be by themselves, while girls are usually in a group. Originally I didn’t intend for these black jagged lines being a mouth, but then I put it together and it actually fit.”
As for the second collage featured in Waterfall Arts gallery, Ayla said: “I spent a month on this piece finding all of the words to put in it. I wanted it to be a letter to anyone viewing it. Most of the words at the top are sort of negative, but at the bottom of the collage, the meaning turns uncertain, with one phrase ’we know you’re out there’.’”
Ayla, who admitted she’d hasn’t experienced bullying herself, has an empathetic connection for anyone who has, having witnessed it and its after-effects in some of her friends and classmates.
“I feel like these standards of beauty that you see in these faces, all cut out from Vogue, all contribute to depression in the everyday person, the self-hatred,” she said. “You worry about how you look, how people view you. When you’re depressed, you feel like everything is crashing in on you.
“Everyone knows bullying exists in every school, but they just put it on the back burner. In doing an art piece like this will hopefully bring the issue to light to whoever is looking at it.”
With her interest in ceramics, Ayla has been accepted into the Maine College of Art next fall.
“I hope to get my bachelor’s of fine arts and open my own business to hold classes and an after-school program for kids to come in and work in clay,” she said. “I want to do for kids what Linda did for me.”
The Waterfall Arts 2019 Young Artists Gallery show is now over, but you can see what other teens displayed in our most recent story
Hail To The Rad Kids is an ongoing feature highlighting creative and talented teens in the Midcoast.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com