“I never much liked being corrected.”
Elizabeth Mappus, 17, junior, Academic Magnet High School, North Charleston, S.C.
From: Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated: Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs by Students Making Sense of the World, compiled by Larry Smith
What would you say if you had just six words to define your life? That’s the challenge Larry Smith presented to his online community, SMITH Magazine, in 2006, challenging contributors to come up with a half-dozen words of self-reflection. The constraint, it turned out, fueled rather than inhibited creativity.
Inspired by Six Words’ popularity in English classes and art classes alike, Smith recently called for submissions for illustrated Six-Word Memoirs, in which he asked students in grade school to create a piece of artwork that enhanced their memoirs.
The voices in Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated might be young, but they are nonetheless profound. At its core, the Six-Word Memoir offers a simple way for anyone of any age to try to answer the question that defines us all: Who am I?
This girl is not just great at drawing, but she is also well able to convey a serious message through what some might consider to be nothing more than some primitive Binney & Smith scribbling.
Forget, for just a moment, Elizabeth’s ability to wield the medium of her choice. It’s the message.
Elizabeth’s talent for so vividly expressing her attitude is amazing. Once we get past the primary message—that Elizabeth has a problem with authority—there’s a much deeper meaning here. But I don’t get the feeling that this schoolgirl is too much trouble to her parents or other authority figures. I think the real message here is that she’s too intelligent—too distinctive a personality—to be harnessed by a bland and ordinary world.
She uses art to communicate—through the two colorless, drab, grey, exactly alike dresses worn by the girls on her right—the uninspired, undistinguished, unexceptional, personalities that belong to these mediocre lemmings who are undoubtedly her classmates. Note also the space between the colorless words belonging to the girls on our left and the colorful text that represents Elizabeth. Although she may be standing right next to these unremarkable, run-of-the-mill, pedestrian peers, she might as well be a hundred miles away, as it’s obvious from this simple illustration that she has nothing in common with them. And never will.
This is my first public venture into art criticism—and maybe I’m just another talking head. But … if I’m right (and only Elizabeth Mappus knows), then this is one talented and creative seventeen-year-old.