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Friday April 13, 2001

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The painful art of adolescence

Headline Photo


Studio arts senior Steve Jarvis kneels beside his piece "Boys Can't Cry" in the lower level of the museum of Contemporary Art. Jarvis' exhibit "Kid Stuff: Strategies and Tactics" runs through May 6.

By Shaun Clayton

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Studio art senior examines childhood struggles through art exhibition

Developing ways to cope with the fear, alienation and self-esteem of adolescence is by no means an easy task.

But, only a select few have turned their solutions for a troubled adolescence into art.

Steve Jarvis, a University of Arizona studio art senior, is one of those few.

His exhibit "Kid Stuff: Strategies and Tactics," which is part of his undergraduate honors thesis, is currently showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Hazmat Gallery, 191 E. Toole Ave.

"The whole exhibit is about my adolescent coping tactics," Jarvis said. "At the time when I did them (my pieces), I thought they were just games or playing or childish stuff, but they turned out to have much more significance," Jarvis said.

An example of one a these coping "tactics" displayed in his exhibit is the piece Jarvis calls "Combat Boy" - a bunch of plastic toy soldiers melted into one lump.

"It's kind of punishing your heroes - playing the two sides against one another in this battle," he said. "At some point, as the person orchestrating all of this, you realize that you can beat all of them, so it becomes about a battle with the person playing the game ultimately winning."

He added, "It's ('Combat Boy') actually about being afraid to do anything with this violence. It's all kept under wraps - there's never anything that occurs in the outside world."

Despite the violent undertones of some of the pieces in his exhibit, Jarvis reiterated the show is not just about violence. Rather, he said violence is simply a product of trying to cope with feelings of inadequacy, of validation in one's own life and of the influence of exposure to violent media.

To make a statement about these violent undertones, Jarvis created the piece "That's Cool Huh!?!?! (Numbed)." It is made of two child-size chairs set a few feet away from an old television playing the motorcycle crash of Evil Knievel at Caesar's Palace in a continuous loop, the horrific crash that ended Knievel's career as a stuntman.

"Images are really powerful," Jarvis said. "When you see them over and over again in your mind, they can have a kind of numbing effect. It's really horrific footage and after a while, you just don't think about it anymore. "

With the number of violent acts committed by adolescents today, especially in light of the recent school shootings in San Diego, Calif., Jarvis mixed together elements of gun violence and marketing tactics to create a "sarcastic" portrayal of both that he calls "End Cap."

"End Cap" is a stack of long boxes labeled "Tower Shooter" with a slick orange logo on the side. Five of the boxes contain kits, complete with a pellet gun, targets and training instructions. Jarvis imagined the piece as something one might find at a Wal-Mart or Costco store.

Jarvis admitted parents have a hard time understanding the way kids cope with the trials of adolescence, as was the case when he was a kid.

"My parents were very upset about me being fixated on violent things, like car accidents and stuff like that," he said. "They didn't understand the reason I watched it - that I got some sort of sick satisfaction out of it. They questioned me about why I found it so interesting and I didn't think anything about it - it was just this thing that was funny."

Continuing to reflect on the issues portrayed in his exhibit, Jarvis continued:

"Looking back on it, I think it (violence) was pretty important stuff, especially when we look at it in terms of what's going on now with kids, schoolyard violence and those kind of 'acting out' things," he said. "I think it's a kind of a progression from 20 to 30 years ago - the kinds of things adolescents did for validation then to the things they are doing now. I think the show deals with that."

Now that he has passed the rigors of childhood, Jarvis said he hopes to continue his self-expression and examination through a career in studio art. After graduating from the UA in May, Jarvis said he will attend the University of California at Davis to pursue his graduate degree.

"Ultimately my goal would be to just make and show art," Jarvis said, "I would love to be able to do that."

Kid Stuff: Strategies and Tactics

Steve Jarvis' exhibit "Kid Stuff: Strategies and Tactics" is showing now through May 6 at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Hazmat Gallery, 191 E. Toole Ave. Admission is free. Call 624-5019 for more information.