In her signature style that blends magic realism with storybook illustration, American painter Lori Nelson explores the mysterious, frightening, and undeniably magical world of teens in “Cryptotweens Are Like”. Her new series of oil-on-panel paintings depicts monstrous tweens and teens that, on the surface, bear little resemblance to ordinary youths. Nelson’s “cryptotweens” trek through dark forests alongside animal companions, are covered in fur and scales, and seem to harness their powers through their smart phones (okay, maybe that last one sounds like your average teen).
Nelson says of her little monsters: “I am drawn to adolescents as subjects because, for a very brief time, they necessarily inhabit a land that is neither childhood nor adulthood, but rather a thorny connective forest that all must stumble through. Forests, we all know, though dangerous and spooky, can also be quite magical. In my recent work, I strive to show my human and semi-human subjects, my ‘Cryptotweens,’ in a precise instance where they are occupying this middle place, at once vulnerable and yet also experiencing power for the first time.
Many of the ‘Cryptotweens’ in this exhibit wear ecstatic expressions on their faces reminiscent of the innocents and saints of traditional religious art when a veil has been lifted and knowledge and divine power revealed. It is this dual aspect of innocence and knowledge that for me defines tween and teen-hood… I wish to capture the fleeting moment before the child emerges from the forest and reality and self-awareness sets upon her.”
Despite their alien appearance, Nelson’s teens show a true humanness as they grapple with feelings of freakish outsider-ness, first encounters with romantic love, and moments of self awareness amidst their changing environments. As these teens strive to navigate the strange place between their innocent childhoods and the realities of adulthood, their experiences remind us of what we have all at one time felt: caught between two worlds, on the brink of inevitable and critical transformation.
“Cryptotweens Are Like” will be on view at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles from May 28 to July 2, 2016. An opening reception will be held on May 28 and is open to the public. This is the first solo exhibition on the West Coast for Nelson, who is based in Brooklyn.