Sean Vegezzi is a 22-year-old alumnus of our In the Making program, which offers free art classes to NYC teens. Like many students attending public schools here in the city, Sean came to us as a high school student who was seeking an outlet for his creativity as well as a public platform to showcase his work. He followed up his time at MoMA with a pair of high-profile internships with the photographers Annie Leibovitz and Ryan McGinley, and in September released I Don’t Warna Grow Up, his first book of photography. Focusing on the (oftentimes illegal) excursions of Sean and the close-knit group of young men that make up his crew of friends, the book is an exciting and vibrant portrait of New York City youth today. In this post, Sean shares a few images from his book and explains the events that led to the work’s title.
—Calder Zwicky, Associate Educator of Teen and Community Programs
Three autumns ago, I walked through an old watch factory that was struggling to determine its relevance in a small town facing an onset of modernity. The factory was responsible for resuscitating the town after a down period and now it was sitting unused, but not forgotten. In fact, it’s future was most likely being discussed as my friends Mason, Cyrus, and I walked through the hallways. It was daytime, but sheets of plywood had been bolted over all of the openings in the building, preventing any daylight or real world concerns from reaching us. So we shared a flashlight, occasionally bickering over where we should look. First we found a staircase to the roof, but we felt like we had more to do before rewarding ourselves with a rooftop. We then continued into a room where the floor had collapsed onto the floor below, but none of us wanted to acknowledge mortality. Eventually the light led us around a corner to a brick wall where somebody had painted “I don’t wanna grow up” and all three of us stopped and stood at the painting for some time.
I loved the immediacy and the crudeness of the piece. After a closer look, we had realized that the first ‘N’ in ‘wanna’ was obscured by paint and therefore the wall read “I don’t warna grow up”. Did the painter(s) decide to maul his/her own work after realizing how trite the saying ‘I don’t want to grow up’ is? Or did someone find the piece mediocre and attempt to cover it up? There was an abyss of possible explanations, but it didn’t really matter whether or not it was a conscious decision of the painter or a random defacement.
We stood around in the dark, making half-serious remarks about this painting being the most important one we had ever seen. The spelling error that was born out of the mysterious paint mark had somehow so effortlessly highlighted both the importance and the absurdity of trying to hold on to childhood; what once seemed like an imbecilic expression transformed into a powerful tongue-in-cheek commentary on transition.
What do you do when you’re too big for playgrounds?
When you’ve seen every film that’s out?
When you’ve become too restless to stay indoors?
When you’ve spent your allowance?
When you’ve taken care of all of your responsibilities to family and school?
Almost every kid I know, regardless of their socioeconomic background, has the same answer for any of these questions:
You walk around looking for something to get into.
More information on I Don’t Warna Grow Up can be found here. To learn more about In the Making and MoMA Teen Programs visit our website and our Facebook page. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.