John Van Houten

Fine Artist, Instructor, Illustrator

Youth in Crux

The definition of legacy, the permanence of photography, and the fragility of identity and memories are all relevant to my work. Specifically, I focus on unarchiving snapshots of memories stored in yearbooks from Western New York in the early 1990’s. I am curating a collection of forgotten memories, projected through an uncanny lens, manufactured by existentialism and viewed within a critical framework. To do this I research the identity crises in young adults as they search for meaning and belonging in a world of spectacle and external pressures. These moments exist at a time in the subject’s lives when growth and the construction of identity are developing. They now exist as nostalgic memorials to potential. I am intrigued by this time of growth and global naivety, as well as how the hive mind mentality shapes our social influences. Overall, I am fascinated by the existential dread that demands we preserve our legacies and hold tightly to our childhood innocence.

Utilizing my distance as an outsider to these individuals and their memories of youth, I am using the photographic vernacular to establish a new kind of intimacy and narrative within the genre of yearbook photographs. Within the dark undercurrent of the inchoate identity and the forgotten memories of youth, I view these images as if looking through a window into a bizarre world parallel to our own. In doing so, I re-contextualize these collections of cherished halcyon memories and snapshots of youth as something different and strange.

Lost and Found: An Examination of Youth in Crux, as part of the UB MFA Non-Sequitur exhibition 2018

© 2019 John Van Houten