Expressing Identity Through Art


Tiya Mengesha’s art.

Jessica Trujillo-Hernandez, Reporter

High school students might go through a phase in which they are having an identity crisis—and art often helps. 

“If I feel a certain way about something whether I’m mad, happy, or sad, art has always been there for me to express it,” said senior Tiya Mengesha.

Using art as a strategy to cope with the feeling of being lost, the Personal Symbol Project was created to help Venice students express who they are. 

Visual arts teacher Tyler Fister said that the Personal Symbol Project came about as a way that “allowed students to think through and articulate various aspects of their identity through the most basic art elements, line and shape.” 

“It gives students who have not had much experience with art to feel comfortable and have an easy access point into making art,” he said.

Fister is the type of teacher who wants to help his students think critically about their world while also learning various art skills along the way. 

“The project asks students to think deeply about various dimensions of their identity and then translate or express those dimensions through different types of line,” he said. Through different types of line, an art piece can be manipulated into a powerful image which can showcase the depth of the artist’s identity. “This allows for students not to worry about drawing realistically, but naming and expressing themselves in a public yet private way.”

After contributing to the Personal Symbol Project, Mengesha loves to see what the viewer has made of it. However, she still wants her audience to acknowledge her identity as an artist, too. 

“I want my art to be subjective,” Mengesha said. “I want people to look at my art and be like ‘I see this in it and I think this is interesting,’ but I also want people to recognize my meaning behind it.”

In her work, Mengesha manipulates different materials, including color, shading, and uses specific images to express herself.

“Art is just something the human mind can really express itself on paper, and it being different from others is what makes it beautiful,” she said.