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Central Standard

For An Exhibit At The Kemper Museum, Kansas City Teens Focus On The Beauty Of Flaws

Matthias Herrmann
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Matthias Herrmann's 'Untitled (Lips),' a 1994 chromogenic color print, is included in the 'Flaw(less' exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. A gift of Peter Norton, it is in the museum's permanent collection.

It's a commanding image: an enormous close-up photograph of a tongue sticking out from bright-red-lacquered lips, underneath facial-hair stubble.

"It goes against the stereotypes of men and their masculinity," Anthony Moses III said of Matthias Herrmann's "Untitled (Lips)," a 43-by-53 inch chromogenic color print at the entrance to a gallery at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

"You see that first when you go into the exhibit and ... you're like what does this exhibit mean? What's it going towards?" Moses added.

The exhibit is "Flaw(less)," and Moses, a student at Lincoln College Prepatory Academy, is one of the exhibit's 11 high-school-age curators.

Credit Kathleen Pointer / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Anthony Moses III, left, and Katie Moore joined KCUR's Central Standard to talk about 'Flaw(less),' an exhibit put together by teenagers at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Moses is part of the Kemper Museum's Teen Art Council, a group of teenagers from around the Kansas City metro who put together this show.

The students had their hands in the entire process: They came up with the theme, selected images from the museum's permanent collection, wrote the accompanying information, worked on the marketing materials and helped with installation.

When it came to choosing what pieces of art to put on display, the students focused on society's limited understanding of who and what is beautiful. They drew inspiration from challenging the idea of flaws.

"Now in this day and age there is a standard of beauty, there's a standard for what perfection is," said Katie Moore, another member of teen council. "A lot of people feel like they don't meet that standard."

It wasn't always a tension-free experience for Kemper staff to accept that teen-specific perspective. Moses said he had to fight to get "Untitled (Lips)" into the show. He said the adult curator who oversees the program didn't want to include the piece and had it eliminated at a meeting Moses missed.

At the next one, Moses, and others, pressed their case for the image to be included.

The text accompanying "Untitled (Lips)," written by councilmember Leslie Ponce-Diaz, illuminates the push for its inclusion and its prominent spot in the show.

"We feel that this piece expresses us, with it being bold and weird. It is a challenging piece, but our council focuses on the beauty of what is callenging, which in many ways describes the voices of our Teen Arts Council."

Credit Hans Silvester / Marlborough Gallery
Marlborough Gallery
Hans Silvester's 'Natural Fashion No. 77,' from 2006-07, is included in the 'Flaw(less)' exhibition. The chromogenic color print at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art was a gift of the R.C. Kemper Charitable Trust.

"Having a teen voice is very important because everybody's been a teen but may not remember exactly how it was to be a teen," Moses said. "And with the Kemper trying to reach teens in 2018, it's very different from many years ago."

Moore said she hoped the exhibition "opens up people's eyes."

"There is not a standard for how important you are, how valuable you are," Moore said. "You are you."

Hear a longer conversation with Anthony Moses III and Katie Moore on KCUR's Central Standard.

"Flaw(less)," through February 17 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Boulevard, Kansas City, Missouri 64111. Teens intrested in joining the Kemper's Teen Arts Council can apply online (applications are due by Nov. 26, 2018). 

Kathleen Pointer is a digital and associate producer for KCUR's talk shows, Up To Date and Central Standard. Reach out to her at kathleenp@kcur.org or find her on Twitter, @kathleenpointer