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Portland Museum of Art exhibition explores the complexities of youth from multiple perspectives
Jocelyn Lee (United States (b. Italy), born 1962), Untitled (Kara on bed) (detail), 1998|2013, Inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches. Museum purchase with support from the Irving B. Ellis Fund, and the Contemporary Art Fund, in memory of Bernice McIlhenny Wintersteen, 2013.27b.

PORTLAND, ME.- Child's Play: Representations of Adolescence will take a close look at childhood and the unsteady terrain of adolescence through a selection of 20th-century photographs. This exhibition reveals artists' awareness that the early years of life are marked by transition and transformation, and the meaning and experience of youth is hardly fixed. Representations of adolescence evoke many phases and moments including self-discovery, growth, nostalgia, playfulness, and sexual awakening. This exhibition explores the complexities of youth from multiple perspectives.

In the early decades of the 20th century, documentary photographs including Aaron Siskind and Lewis Hine used the faces of children to bring attention to a range of social issues. In his series Harlem Document (1936-40), Siskind photographed life in Harlem during the Great Depression. Child's Play features a suite of these artworks, which depict the neighborhood's youngest inhabitants, their lives, and interactions with friends and family. In one photograph, a young girl perched on a milk jug eats with her mother; laundry hangs from the rafters of their apartment. In Wishing Tree, Harlem (1937) a group of young boys dressed in dapper coats congregate around the stump of Harlem's famed elm, a symbol of hope and good luck.

Other artists have focused on the profound physical, phsychological, and emotional changes that occur during adolescence. Jocelyn Lee, over the span of 16 years, photographed her young neighbor, Kara. Pictured here, the series charts Kara's transition from a self-possessed girl into a young woman and concludes with Kara as an adult and a mother.

Also present in Child's Play is the unbridled delight and joy of youth. In Olive Pierce's Boys in a Tree, North Cambridge, Mass (1974) a group of agile boys climb a tree, laughing and smiling as they hang from branches. With both the opportunity to remember the carefree days of summer as well as reflect on the challenges and uncertainty of adolescence, Child's Play offers an experience for all ages.

Child's Play: Representations of Adolescence is organized by Mollie Armstrong, Exhibitions Coordinator.

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