In 2016, liberational artist Ebony H. Flag created a drawing of a woman surrounded by various objects; a stiletto, red lipstick, laundry basket, and baby bottle were among them. Some represented common associations with women, but all were set to define her. They were scattered on the floor, accompanied by a note that said “I AM MORE THAN…”written in red.
“I have all of those things placed on the floor and then I have a nude woman in the back, showing that she’s free,” said Flag. “The piece reflects breaking those different boundaries and stereotypes.”
Her piece, however, titled “I Am More Than…!” grew into something more: inspiration for children and adolescents to reject their own labels.
Flag, a Moore College of Art and Design graduate, took the concept of breaking boundaries and created an art class for children ages 6-11 and 12-16 through the Youth Art League at Artworks, a visual arts center in Trenton, New Jersey. The class, appropriately named “I Am More Than…,” focuses around the goal of promoting confidence and positive self-image through self-portraiture. After paying a $5 material fee, students spent three class days, December 1st, 8th, and 15th, learning the fundamentals of drawing and creating a final project.
Flag photographs each of the 47 total students and photoshops them into black silhouettes. She then encourages them to discuss themselves, their experiences,and decide what objects would best represent them.
“We talked about four things that would represent them…and then one thing that they know they’re more than,” said Flag.
Some students wrote that they were more than their gender, more than their parents, more than ordinary, and more than their grades. The goal is for them to understand and remember that their gender, money, or circumstances do not define them.
In their final artwork, students will join their “defining objects” with their silhouettes to create their very own “I Am More Than…!” drawing.
Below are some of the works in progress; not yet completed.
To add another personal touch, Flag told each of the students to create their own original West African Adinkra symbols, which traditionally represent different concepts or aphorisms. They used the symbols they learned about in class as reference to create their own, assigning each unique symbol its own meaning.
An exhibition is held at the culmination of the class, giving students the opportunity to show their work to their parents. Parents have even approached Flag to tell her that they love the work she’s doing because the message is so meaningful- some wish the class could extend longer than only three days.
Luckily, Flag revealed that there’s talk of possibly holding another “I Am More Than…”class in January or March of 2019. There, more students will have the opportunity to discover themselves and embrace their self-worth through art.
“We are all individuals and we should be able to walk with integrity of who we are,” said Flag.
For more information, visit www.ehfcreations.com.