Teen Arts Academy Gallery 2019-2020

The Des Moines Art Center’s Teen Academies are nine-month studio programs designed to assist motivated high school students in the development of a college art portfolio. The following pieces are from the class of 2019-2020.

Aidan Drake


I’ve always been drawn to very life-like paintings, which has translated into my love for creating hyper-realistic and semi-realistic portraits. Although my ideas stem from a song, movie, or event in my life, I often find myself developing the true meaning of the piece as I go along. 

My pieces are a critique of society's obsession with vanity and it’s common manifestation: wealth. To many, wealth symbolizes prosperity which some believe automatically leads to a happy and successful life. But this is not always the case, as a large part of vanity is hiding the undesirable parts and only showing the positive aspects of one’s life. Whether it be through jewelry, association, or gold, the addiction to accumulating and portraying one’s own wealth is a detriment to society.

Aria Puley


“A Jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than master of one.”

A classic proverb that definitely describes me as an artist. I love to work with multiple mediums that often result in various mixed media pieces. Instead of choosing one medium, I choose to use my favorite 3 mediums and combine them with one concept and overarching story. I started with two words ‘mystery and sinister’. In imagery and literature, these two qualities are commonly associated with Victorian Era circuses and carnivals. The iconic image of a smiling jester holding their secrets and the enchanting quality of tarot cards inspired me to create another mystery piece.

The Stellium Carnival is a whodunnit mystery experience. Each piece is a part of the puzzle. Intended to be an in-person experience with a group of people. They are presented with a suit of cards and the prompt and it's their job to solve the mystery of the missing Fool.

Each of the 8 characters is based on different tarot cards, a common form of fortune-telling at carnivals and circuses. For most of the characters, the Lovers, the Queen of cups, the Hanged Man, The Eight of Swords, The Chariot, and the Missing Fool, I used acrylic paint to portray them in the forms of their tarots. My method for designing the characters and their layout was based on their personality and the overarching story. Each piece is designed to hold a clue to the mystery. There is one of two special symbols hidden in each piece to give you a clue about what kind of person each character is. The only character who doesn't have a tarot painting is the Magician. The Magician comes in the form of a mask and is portrayed by the facilitator of the game.

Caitlin Cecil


I make art inspired by the characters and situations in my book. The book is about what would happen if there were aliens on earth that look and act like humans. The story dives into themes of racism, and how despite two people being similar in many ways, they never allow themselves to be friends because they fear their differences. 

I started developing this story when I was nine years old, and over the years it’s changed a lot. I’ve grown attached to each character as if they are a friend. Just thinking about them gives me a rush of energy. Eventually, this passion for my characters drove me to start drawing.

When I was thinking about how to bring the characters into a visual format I focused a lot on the character designs. For example in the picture of the couple, I wanted them to look good together, I did this by using a tetradic color scheme (four colors found at an equal distance on a color wheel), and contrasting the two characters by using softer shapes in one and sharper shapes in the other.

Gabe Feldmann


I draw inspiration from geometric designs, forms, and shapes found both in the natural and industrial worlds. The natural world brings organic forms and natural colors, while the industrial world has sharp, angled with more vivid shapes. Using what I find I make the styles entirely my own. I strive to have my work be decorative, with a bit of functionality thrown into the mix. 

Many ideas start out with templates that have been custom made. They are usually cardstock, but also wood and ceramic, to work out angles and shapes to ultimately ensure that the final piece goes together cleanly. For clay-based works, which is my main medium, the glaze is bright and vibrant, and I use colors that work with the space in which the piece will eventually reside.

My other main medium is linoleum-block printing. I draw inspiration from the natural world for most of my prints. My most ambitious project has been the 9-block insect print. I had to draw out many versions of insects all in the same style for a cohesive design.

Hanah Guile


Emotions are a thing that we all go through, it can range as far from happy to sad, anger, anything! In these pictures, I painted what I thought they are like. You can see joy, sadness, and anxiety. All of which we have felt at least once in our lives.

Sadness is like a black inky void that tries to swallow us up. Bringing us down until we don’t know what to do. Joy can be anything that makes you happy. Doesn’t matter what it is, you just have to do what makes you happy. Lastly, Anxiety, too many words at once, suffocating until you can’t breathe. Like you are dying.

We all experience emotions differently but in the end, we all have them, and we don’t always have to deal with them on our own.

Neal Marlett


Throughout my life, I have been fascinated with the human body. Being able to dive deeper and help expand my understanding of how the body works. In the three pieces I have worked on this year I have been able to explore how different parts of the body are connected and rely upon each other to work. In my first piece, I focused on the skeletal and circulatory systems. For my second piece, I focused on the auditory system. In the third piece, I focused on the integumentary system. 

Being able to take a closer look at the human body systems has been a way for me to help build my understanding of the body. Building up an understanding of how the body works is important to the study of life and evolution. To me, the body is an important figure in art and science. In my art, I tend to focus on ideas around science. For my first piece of the year, I did a sculpture revolving around the skeletal system and circulatory system. It’s meant to be a conceptual idea of what bones look like while how bones and blood vessels work together. On my second piece, I delved into the auditory system. This is a personal thing to me due to me being deaf. I wanted the pieces to be broken up to help show how they need each other in order for them to work. In the pieces, I did this year I wanted to keep a connection between the ideas.   These two pieces helped me understand the importance of the body and science.

Mia Okland


While creating this collection I used a few different media. For the collage elements, I used magazine clippings, card stock, and transparency paper. I used a variety of different media; Acrylic paint, nail polish, pens, and collage elements.

I was really inspired by color and lines while making these pieces. I used bright colors because when juxtaposed to the lines it really makes the colors pop. The collage elements also really inspired me while making the pieces too, they really dictated the composition of the final piece. Composing the collage elements was one of the most difficult aspects of this experience. There is a balance between boring and busy, I had to find the balance while creating the collages.

Paige Trinrud


I came out as queer to my father when I was 14 years old. Over the next few years, as I was ready and I felt like they were ready, I came out to everyone as a queer teenager. During that very personal process, I always felt as if I needed to hide a huge piece of myself. I could never hold a girl's hand in public without worrying if we were safe or not. I couldn't talk to my parents about crushes. I had to change pronouns if I did talk to anyone about anyone I was dating. I drew my overall inspiration for this collection from that experience. The thoughts and emotions and fears and releases that I have experienced are all a part of this work. 

This collection begins for me with the energy and the comfort that I find in pop art and in expressionist works. I find that it gives me more of a feeling of freedom if I don't feel the need to conform in any way to any realistic or idealistic view of the subject or subjects of my work. I wanted to utilize the different elements of the paintings to convey the different emotions and feelings that I have experienced and been witness to that provided the inspiration for this collection. 

Marine Deyev


My name is Marine and I’m an LGBTQ artist. I've been drawing all my life, but there was a moment when I stopped. I felt there wasn't a purpose as to why I was drawing. I was also struggling with my mental health, friends, and understanding myself. But then I realized that I’m nonbinary, and I don’t have a gender preference for who I liked. And everything fell into place. I started to use art as a coping mechanism. I stopped fighting with my best friend. I went to therapy and went to high school a happier person. Eventually, I realized I loved art so much I wanted to make it into my career! 

In my art, I’m very inspired by my emotions, places, the music I listen to, plants, and vintage things. My art is primarily character and comic art. My theme for this collection is comfort because I usually draw emotional and unnerving pieces so I wanted to branch out in my art through warmer softer color pallets, smiling contempt faces, and other techniques. Each piece has a calm and hygge-like feeling to it. I made each artwork have a specific aesthetic to it to make it a bit different from each other. Plants are one of those things that make me feel at peace, so a lot of my pieces include plants in them. Plants are my friends, they're like my little children. I love taking care of them, watching them grow, and prosper and I love seeing them have their own plant babies. What is your favorite aspect of my pieces?

Mikelle Murdoch


This year I took AP European history and I was inspired by all of the repetitive and forgettable leaders. Those leaders that didn’t make any significant changes, those that were neither terrible rulers nor brilliant leaders lost their individuality and become just another rich monarch to be memorized. Similar to the common pigeon of any major city, their lavish plumage did not distinguish them from the masses.

Mary Wohlford


These portraits show something unexpected. I have stripped the skin over part of the face to reveal bones. The bones blend into the skin and form the face on the opposing side to create a complex portrait. The combination of the skin and bones shows a contrast between similarities and uniqueness.  These pieces were inspired by a quote from someone I greatly admire: “Under clothes, under skin, underneath we’re all the same, for when you remove the tricky tricks, only skeleton bones remain” (Tyler Joseph).

This quote means that physical appearance is a mask we wear that covers our similarities. Physically and realistically, people are the same under the skin. This also applies to metaphorical looks, like thoughts and feelings. I represented this by showing the bones each person has, but also their true face, and how both sides blend together to form an individual.

Eli Clayton


My art is kinda basic. I paint portraits, I try to make it as realistic as I can. I put a lot of passion and care into my artwork which is why I get so frustrated with it. It hardly ever turns out how I want it to but that's okay. One thing that I find special about my work is my ability to take a picture and slightly adjust it, usually in the color, to make the piece seem like more than paint or color on a piece of paper. 

The one thing that really sets my work apart is the reason I create. I do it to praise and worship God. He has given me a passion and gift and I strive every day, with every piece I create, to point to him. All my life I have been a Christian but I have really never known what it meant until about a year ago. I never understood the fact that God wants me, that he wants everyone but he gives everyone a different purpose. Art is and always will be a big part of my testimony and my walk with God. It is because of him I create. 

Artworks Arisen from COVID-19

This year the Teen Academies had an added element of difficulty with the onset of COVID-19. Through this, art persisted. Our 2019-2020 students created the following pieces based on their experiences through their time in quarantine.

entirely unexpected