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HOMiE: In Our Eyes

Museum of Fine Arts
Boston
Through January 22, 2017

Together, BoYi Wong, Boston. Digital artwork. Image: Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


In museums, artwork by teenagers — usually fostered by edu-
cation departments — rarely makes it to gallery walls. How could it measure up to the emotional wisdom of a Rembrandt, the color sense of a Titian, or the conceptual savvy of a Warhol? 

The Museum of Fine Arts takes a gamble, then, with HOMiE: In Our Eyes, an exhibition of 44 works by Boston teenagers curated by the museum’s Teen Arts Council. And it pays off. The success of this heartfelt and affecting show hinges on a theme personal to everyone: home.

The young artists aim straight — no adolescent deflection, no irony. For many, home is where they find structure and validation. Student athletes Walter Ramos and Kevaughn Plummer draw cleats; music lover Frannik Dionicio renders headphones.

Youthful passion carries such works, as well as several loving (and more literal) portrayals of home. In a self-portrait, Adler Arcene’s digital work spotlights his neighborhood in Mattapan, with Morton Mini Market flowering from his head like a cozy dream. Another digital piece, Boyi Wong’s crisply composed Together, depicts the family dinner table from above.

The idea of home can be fraught, too — filled with longing, loss, and hope. Ali Ali’s mixed-media Coming Back Home shows, in grainy black-and-white, the bombed-out shell of his hometown, Damascus, Syria, as the artist in the foreground bears witness — and asks us to. Others introduce slyly complicated notions: In his photo of coin-op binoculars on a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, William Burnett flips the simple association of home as a singular place; 25¢ Away From Home hints that instead it might be a destination as yet unseen.

Several such works limned with innuendo and suggestion set off a viewer’s own chain of associations, deepening HOMiE. But for all those twists, the show’s sincerity brings it home. ■