“Origins of the Self” Exhibit at CAMH

Written by Lauriston Brewster

Houston’s lauded Museum District is home to 19 museums, galleries, cultural centers and community organizations. In the heart of the District, on the corner of Bissonet and Montrose, stands a big, stainless steel rhombus.

That is the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and their Zilkha Gallery is home to some of the most innovative and thought-provoking artworks you’ll see in the area.

This January, CAMH presented their 10th biennial group exhibition called Origins of the Selfwhich featured photography, painting, video, and sculpture work produced by 63 Houston-area teen artists.

CAMH’s Teen Council, a group of dedicated high school students in charge of program creation for young artists, are the organizers for this particular exhibition.

Related: Are you a young H-town artist? Applications to CAMH’s Teen Council are available here.  

After receiving close to 400 submissions from the open call, the Teen Council worked collaboratively to select the theme, title, and artworks to feature in the exhibit.

“Throughout the selection process, the Teen Council members listened to each other, spoke diplomatically, and were true collaborators” explains Michael Simmonds, CAMH’s Teen Council and Public Programs Coordinator.


Ghauri, Sophia. Strong, 2014. Digital photographic print. 4 x 6 inches

For Origins of the Self, Teen Council asked prospective artists: What is the real you? Where is the real you? How do you define you in a constantly changing landscape? “The submissions informed the theme of the show in surprising ways and helped the Teen Council settle on the title for the show,” Simmonds explained.

Origins of the Self in the Zilkha Gallery

Installation images of “Origins of the Self” were taken by Emily Peacock.

Coming of age–the leif motif of Origins of the Self– is already toilsome enough. But social media has certainly complicated things exponentially. When was growing up, we didn’t have to deal with the pressure of the curatorial maintainence of a social media presence (Tom was in my Top 8 and I was completely fine with that).

Ife Omidiran, CAMH Teen Council Member, explains this concept better than I can:

“Coming of age is often represented as a solitary process, but our environments construct the self and often create a disconnect between the self we present and our true self. The goal of this exhibition is to recognize these contradictions and facilitate a reconciliation of these binaries: to create a space that embraces gray areas”

The Origins artists also recognize that adolescence is a time to explore, search, and learn about how they choose to define themselves independently of their family and friends. Complementary programming to accompany Origins of the Self  included a Poetry Slam and a Music Fest, in addition to art-making workshops at a Family Day and Open Studio events . There is also a publication featuring images of selected individual works to checkout.

Origins of the Self  will be available in the Zilkha Gallery until May 2.

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Composed of 14 young arts enthusiasts, Teen Council serves as the Museum’s vehicle for attracting the city’s teen population to CAMH and exposing them to the vibrant field of contemporary art. During weekly meetings, the council is introduced to in-depth, behind the scenes museum experience and learn pathways to creative careers.

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is a leading destination to experience innovative art. CAMH actively encourages public engagement with its exhibitions through its educational programs, publications, and online presence.
The Contemporary Art Museum Houston

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