AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Iain Mahaffey

The Elective’s digital art museum this week features a photograph made by Iain Mahaffey from Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, Vermont.

Welcome to The Elective’s digital art museum, dedicated to the incredible work of AP Arts students. Each week we highlight a work or series created in one of the AP Arts concentrationsAP 2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, and AP Drawing (the AP Program also offers Art History and Music Theory)—as well as a statement from the artist (and, occasionally, their teacher).

From the first cave paintings to contemporary breakthroughs in virtually reality, art, in all its forms, has been a crucial way for people to process, make sense of, comment on, and grapple with the world around them. After more than a year of life in a pandemic, AP Art students have risen to the challenge of processing and making sense of the challenges—and opportunities—that have come from this perilous time. The work they submitted in their final portfolios is explicitly of the moment. It’s often challenging and provocative, but always insightful, inspiring, and expansive.

This week we feature a photograph made by Iain Mahaffey from Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, Vermont.

black and white photograph of a body of water with rolling hills in the background and distance

Here’s Iain’s statement on the work:

“The title of my featured work is ‘Homage.’ Throughout my life, I have wandered into other realms of the earth. Whether somewhere in another climate, another region, or even another mindstate, I wander. I dream. I believe this urge to wander and explore is part of the essential elements of my creative process and my art, but I have used art to escape my reality at times. That is why this piece on a sentimental level is truly important to me.

“I made this piece in a place that has become home for me. In a place where the air I breathe and the landscape I devour with my eyes have become second nature. I honestly never thought I was terribly decent at photographs of the natural world, but when I captured this image I knew I had accomplished a goal of making something I do not fully despise. I think that is a challenge any artist has to overcome at some point. In my eyes, none of my work is to the caliber I see fit, but slowly I have grown to see the value in it. This image being part of my selected works tells a story that up until this point has been stuck in my internal monologue, but now reading this you too know.

“This image is an homage to my home. The land I have grown in. And the mountains that I have learned to adore. The harsh contrast between the calmness of this photograph and my sustained investigation which is filled with evocative human emotion, political, and social commentary, and simply more than a monochrome color pallet exemplifies its simplicity yet complicated nature. This photograph, though at face value is simple beauty, holds many stories within it, and though it is not rancid with obvious messages, sometimes simple art can truly be the most intellectually complicated.”

And here are a few other works from Iain’s portfolio:

black and white photo of a young black man looking to the left of the frame

"People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them."—James Baldwin

black and white photo of a black adult man wearing a skull cap with a young black man looking off in the background

This composition symbolizes the closeness and strength people hold to make change together.

black and white photograph of a climate protest

The youth must rally, they must seek accountability. Documentation is our most powerful tool. I ran miles this day, taking so many photos, hoping to create an image that people would listen to.

black and white photograph of a middle-aged white man, balding, in a suit looking at the camera while holding a cigarette

Rising smoke awaits at the immigrant cafe. A stranger who became a friend. I was in the streets with my camera, I approached him, begging for his image, he endorsed my plea.

photograph of a young black man wearing a purple knit cap, purple turtleneck, and purple coat

The black man stands front row, leaving the white man in his shadow. The world has changed.

photograph of a young white man with slicked down black hair and green turtleneck

Glistening boy. Eyes wide. Hair wet. Fear within. Tears build. His makeup awaiting the rainfall. Shot in-studio, colors edited in post-process and styled to examine the idea of the vulnerability.

Student statements are lightly edited for length and clarity.