Dialoguing with Contemporary Art and Culture: Recent Works by the Youth Artists of ARTISTIC NOISE


Youth artists and Artistic Noise staff at opening of annual Ubuntu In the Arts exhibit at Boston University (formerly Wheelock College) Towne Art Gallery, 2018.


Youth curators lead tours at Artistic Noise’s 15th Anniversary Art Exhibit, Infinite Revolution, at the Commons Gallery, NYU, 2016

This photo essay / blog shares twenty+ recent works created by young artists who are incarcerated, on probation or otherwise involved in the juvenile justice system in New York and Massachusetts, created within the programs of the non-profit organization, Artistic Noise.  It also summarizes and highlights some conceptual approaches used by teaching artists at Artistic Noise. In particular, this blog gives visual examples of various ways contemporary art and culture can be used to foster critical thinking / creative problem-solving and create opportunities for young artists to address current social and political issues in personal, meaningful ways. Ten contemporary artists (or, in some cases, writers and events) are discussed, followed by brief summaries of collaborative process and visual examples of work by Artistic Noise youth artists, ages 13-21.

Artistic Noise’s mission is “to bring the freedom and power of artistic practice to young people who are incarcerated, on probation, or otherwise involved in the justice system. Through visual arts and entrepreneurship programs in Massachusetts and New York, our participants give voice to their experiences, build community through collaborative projects, and learn valuable life and job skills. Artistic Noise creates safe spaces where court-involved youth can be seen, heard and supported on their path to adulthood. We believe the practice of making art offers opportunities for young people and communities to transform.”

Artistic Noise is an organization based in New York City and Boston that was founded in 2001 and became a non-profit organization in 2010. Our programs in Boston are funded in part by a generous grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, YouthReach program. 

I was a teaching artist and Boston Director for Artistic Noise from 2006-2010, and currently serve on the board of directors. For the more information about our current programs and teaching artists, please click here.

1. Dialoguing with the work of Hank Willis Thomas

‘In Response’ project designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Laura Schnieder

In this project, Artistic Noise youth responded to the series, Branded, by contemporary artist Hank Willis Thomas. Thomas’s photographic series includes images of sports icons seemingly branded on the body of African Americans, as a way to decry both the history of slavery (during which time slaves were branded) and the commodification of black bodies in advertising and elsewhere. Thomas challenges his viewers to consider the many ways that corporations distort ideas of race, gender and class to sell their ideas and market their products. His work challenges viewers to consider how individual dignity is threatened and damaged through the distortions of popular culture.

In this art project, youth participants analyzed Thomas’s work and then chose an advertisement to use as a basis of their creative work. They were also given the option of building off of one of Thomas’s work as a way to engage with his ideas and generate their own. In the process, they formed their own critiques of our media culture and formulated constructive responses.

Artistic Noise’s Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program, Harlem, NYC

I Am Woman
Acrylic on wood, 24” x 30”

Artist Statement:

This piece is a reflection on Hank Willis Thomas’ art on how advertisements are used to play upon people’s stereotypes. My piece is called “I Am Woman” because women are used in advertisements for their bodies to make a product look sexy so people want to purchase the item. The media is only interested in their bodies and not their brain or who they really are. Also, a woman’s body is stereotypically supposed to be a certain size. The media only portrays white women who are small and skinny as beautiful, but this is not true. I combined a white woman who is small and skinny with a black woman who is thick and curvy. Their heads are combined and bigger than their bodies to take attention away from their bodies and place the attention onto their heads to show women are more than their bodies. Let’s instead think about women’s intelligence and what they have to say.

A Black Man’s Head
Acrylic on wood, 24” x 30”

Artist Statement:

At the start of this project, we looked at images of a Black man with Nike branded on his chest and another image of a Black man with Nike branded on his head. There was also a Jordan logo getting shot in the head. We wanted to know why he was getting shot and why the bodies were scarred. A lot of Black people were branded when they were slaves. We wanted to know who made these images and why.

We learned the artist was Hank Willis Thomas. We watched a video of him talking about his life and why he makes certain art. His mom worked in the art world. His cousin got shot for no reason. He started asking questions about what it means to be a Black man. He started to look at how Black men are shown in advertising. They are shown as objects rather than people. Nike ads are using Black bodies as logos or objects. Stereotypes of Black men are that they are angry and strong. They are either thugs or athletes.

In the (background) picture, it looks to me like his brain, his thoughts, have been branded or owned by Nike. Or taken over by stereotypes about who he is.

Instead of a Black man’s head with a Nike brand on his mind, I painted a Black man who is a businessman, wearing glasses. You don’t see that many Black men wearing suits in movies or advertisements.

2. Dialoguing with the work of Titus Kaphar

Obscured Identities project designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Jazmine Hayes, Art Therapist, Jennifer Kind-Rubin and Art Therapy Intern, Francesca DeBiaso

In the Obscured Identities project, Artistic Noise youth responded to “The Jerome Project” series by artist Titus Kaphar.  In the Jerome series, Kaphar painted portraits of individual African American men who were incarcerated for many years, as a way to form a collective portrait of the current American prison system which disproportionately affects men of color. His portraits are halfway obscured, as a way for the artist to comment on the lost time these men faced while incarcerated as well as on the tragedy of our society’s unwillingness to enact humane prison reform.

After learning how to draw their own likeness through gridding from a photograph and making monochromatic paintings, youth artists at Artistic Noise explored ways they could cover and remove parts of their own self-portraits as a way to reveal or conceal different parts of themselves. Instead of using Kaphar’s black tar, youth participants used black gesso on glass. In this way, similar to Kaphar, Artistic Noise artists discovered how the presence of obstructed space can evoke feelings of loss, sadness, isolation, mystery, energy, protection or change.

Artistic Noise’s Queens ECHOES Program at NYC Department of Probation– Queens, NY

 jason  jason_portraitglass

Jason’s Face
Mixed Media Painting, 16” x 20”

Artist Statement:

This is a portrait of me. I’m a serious person.  The color was initially a mistake. I added too much black to the red so I decided to go with that color. Sometimes when you make a mistake, you can make something better.

keanu_portrait-1  keanu_obscured
Mixed Media Painting, 16” x 20”

Artist Statement:

Some of the ugliest things in the world could be some of the most beautiful things to some people.

3. Dialoguing with the work of Martine Syms and Merle Laderman Ukeles

Manifesto Project designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Eva Joly

In the Manifesto project, youth artists read Martine Syms’ Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto and Merle Laderman’s Ukeles’ Maintenance Manifesto to understand how language can be used to express a personal stance or idea about the world. Students considered how individuals and movements, including protest movements, claim certain language as their own “manifestos” as a way to express what ideas are most important to them.

Youth participants then considered what ideas and issues they cared about as a precursor to designing their own visual manifestos. They created longer pieces of writing to explore personal goals and opinions.  They then edited their ideas down to capture a more essential visual message with personal meaning.

Artistic Noise’s Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program, Boston, MA

Love Yourself Unconditionally
Cloth, 2′ x 4′

Being Able to Push Yourself in a Positive Direction
Cloth. 3’ x 4’

4. Dialoguing with the work of David Hammons

Body Prints project, designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Lauren Adelman

In the Body Prints project, Artistic Noise youth artists explored the work of contemporary artist, David Hammons, and his series of Body Prints, created in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Through a technique of oiling and printing his own body, using black charcoal dust, Hammons created sensitive works that explored his own feelings and identity as a black man in America. The immediacy of his method — bringing his own body into the works — evokes a sense of personal struggle and power, as well as loss and fragility. In Hammons prints, due to the fragmentary nature of his methods, the personal gesture, identity, motion and emotion of the subject is both hidden and revealed.

In response, young men in an Artistic Noise workshop considered their own body language and created a meaningful gesture that expressed their current feelings. They then used vaseline to cover either their face and hands and pressed them into large sheets of white paper. The paper was then dusted with powdered charcoal and the excess removed, to reveal the printed image. The youth artists enjoyed both the immediacy of the medium and the sense of playfulness and surprise that this process allows. They then wrote artist statements which give their images a greater narrative context and address some of the challenges they face within the juvenile justice system.

Artistic Noise’s OCFS  Highland Residential Center, Highland, NY

Locked up
Charcoal and vaseline on paper, 16” x 20”

Artist Statement:

You can’t escape. Once the cops get you they got you in jail. You have no freedom and you can’t get out when you want. This is a person looking out of the gate they are just looking they can’t get out they’re trapped.

Charcoal and vaseline on paper, 16” x 20”

Artist Statement:

This piece shows my anger. I’m angry about how the system plays us; how it wants us to fail. The system tries to institutionalize kids. I need to keep moving and not let anybody bring me down and to see the positive in life. I did this by printing my hands. A fingerprint is distinctive, only one person has their fingerprint. These are my hands & the energy shows my anger. Most of the time I’m angry but I try to mask it with goofiness and humor and that’s how I stay positive.

5. Dialoguing with the work of Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow project, designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Laura Schneider

In the New Jim Crow project, youth artists read the introduction of the book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, as a way to develop a more critical stance on issues of mass incarceration in the US. In the New Jim Crow, Alexander argues that the criminal justice system has served (and continues to serve) as a de facto system of racial control, given the way the so-called “War on Drugs” disproportionately devastated communities of color.  Mass incarceration further hurt African-Americans by taking away many of the rights of citizenship — such as the right to vote, the right to be free of discrimination in employment and housing, and so on.

Youth participants grappled with the complex issues raised in the introduction to this book and then followed up their reading with their own research, reflective writing, storytelling and drawing as a way to generate their own original ideas.  As court-involved youth, they drew also from their own experiences of incarceration: living in locked spaces, appearing before judges, being searched and having limited freedoms. However, the group discussion of the New Jim Crow provided a larger context and allowed the youth artists to move past their own isolated experiences to turn their attention to larger societal forces. They chose to create works that challenged misconceptions of incarcerated and disenfranchised people.

Artistic Noise’s Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program, Harlem, NYC

Two Sides to a Story
Mixed media sculpture, approx. 2.5’ x 1’ x 1’

Artist Statement:

The crack epidemic not only killed families but ruined generations to come till this day. Sadly, it was mainly distributed in low-income neighborhoods where people of color lived. Crack caused a lot of bloodshed due to addiction and drug wars. The CIA let the communities take the blame for a war that they started.

According to author of the New Jim Crow, “the CIA admitted in 1998 that guerrilla armies it actively supported in Nicaragua were smuggling illegal drugs into the United States—drugs that were making their way onto the streets of inner-city black neighborhoods…The CIA also admitted that, in the midst of the War on Drugs, it blocked law enforcement efforts to investigate illegal drug networks that were helping to fund its covert war in Nicaragua.” (My note: Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. New York: New Press, 2011. p.6)

These communities got caught in the middle. Crime was going down before the war on drugs was declared, but after it was declared more drugs showed up, and incarceration shot up. Within a three decade time period, incarceration went from 300,000 to over 2 million in the USA. The majority were nonviolent drug convictions.

My artwork shows a low-income community being washed out by a fire hydrant. The fire hydrant is a symbol of hope but also of fear. The people in the water have their hands up. I took them from photographs of protests in Baltimore and photographs of young kids in the hood playing in fire hydrants. Even in all the drug chaos in neighborhoods, kids and people are still resilient, and focused on living life.

Sandra. Why?
Acrylic on canvas, 30” x 30”

Artist Statement:

This project was brought about from The New Jim Crow book. It states, “from 1997 to 2007 the number of women in prison has increased by 8332%.” This quote stood out to me because females now are being arrested for unjust reasons. Most people have misconceptions about crimes that aren’t true. For example, people believe that people in jail deserve to be in jail, that jails treat people humanely and that jail is just a way of punishment. I chose Sandra Bland as the focus of my piece to prove this. She was arrested for a driving ticket, then mysteriously died in lock up. She didn’t deserve to be there in the first place. She died for no reason.

6. Dialoguing with UBUNTU ARTS

The Ubuntu Arts project, designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Vanessa Ruiz, Assistant Teaching Artists, Minotte Romulus and Jen Miller and Art Interns, Taylor Connolly and Avi Ber.

In the Ubuntu Arts project, Artistic Noise youth artists discussed the meaning of the concept of Ubuntu as a precursor to participating in Wheelock College’s annual Ubuntu Youth Arts event.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa describes the philosophy of UBUNTU as a central feature of the African worldview. With UBUNTU, personhood is firmly rooted in community:  person is a full person through and because of others. The Ubuntu Arts program at Wheelock College challenges young artists to explore the concept of Ubuntu and find meaningful connections to the term in their own lives.

Youth artists at Artistic Noise explored the concept of Ubuntu through group discussion, drawing and writing, as a way to generate ideas for an original work. The group eventually decided to create a collaborative painting entitled “With and Without.”  This two-sided piece represents our world with and without Ubuntu. Youth participants collaborated throughout the process of making this large work, and many hands contributed to the detailed painting of the original text, which activates the hopeful “Imagine…” panel on the right.

Artistic Noise’s Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program, Boston, MA and Elliot Short Term Treatment Unit, Boston, MA

© Vanessa RuizBrajon, Dani, Danny, Elmer, Geno, Malik, Quasaia, Rashid, ShaAsia, Shana and Tyree
With and Without
Acrylic on canvas, 5’ x 5’

Artist Statement:

this world without killings, poverty, drugs
and greed.
Turn up
the love, peace, equality and hope
to make this world a better place.

When hatred turns into compassion
When cruelty turns into kindness
Communities will start to come together like families.
We will see our children graduate to be successful and
ultimately thrive.
Stand up for safety, respect, unity,
and friendliness to one another.
When hatred turns into compassion

When cruelty turns into kindness
Communities will start to come together like families.
We will see
more love than hate in people’s eyes.
Extend a helping hand
to our brothers and sisters who fall behind.
When hatred turns into compassion

When cruelty turns into kindness
Communities will start to come together like families.
Appreciation of each other’s differences
will conquer discrimination.
No more hate between us.

When hatred turns into compassion
When cruelty turns into kindness
Communities will start to come together like families.
Instead of tearing each other down
We need to build each other up,
Open our hearts and
rejoice in our togetherness.

7. Dialoguing with Smack Mellon’s RESPOND exhibit

The Figures of Authority project, designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Sophia Dawson

In the Figures of Authority project, youth artists explored the theme “interactions with figures of authority” by first discussing their personal experiences as court-involved youth and then researching local relevant exhibitions, including Smack Mellon’s RESPOND Exhibit. Smack Mellon is a gallery in NYC that has created opportunities for many local artists to “present events, performances and artworks that affirm that black lives matter, express frustration and anger with the institutional racism that enables law enforcement to kill black members of the community with impunity, and imagine creative solutions and visionary alternatives to a broken justice system.” (http://smackmellon.org/index.php/exhibitions/past/respond/)

Artistic Noise artists were inspired by the range of media and ideas expressed by the Smack Mellon RESPOND artists. The Artistic Noise group  addressed the theme “figures of authority” by first discussing the different reasons that a young person might end up court-involved and then looking at the different types of authority figures who control the juvenile justice system. The group discussed their experiences of interaction with authority figures — from police officers, judges, lawyers, case workers, correctional officers, and security personnel to even the president. They shared their views and then worked in a variety of materials to express personal ideas about authority figures and juvenile justice.

Artistic Noise’s Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program, Harlem, NYC

You Have To Start Working On That…
Acrylic on wood, 20” x 32”

Artist Statement:

So many people abuse their power and call themselves a figure of authority. Real people in REAL positions of power help lift you up. They get you where they are mentally and physically. There is enough room at the top for everyone.

Pink Houses
Acrylic on Paper, 24” x 24”

Artist Statement:

My art piece is about Akai Gurley, the man who was shot in his own staircase. I picked this because police authority does too much. Akai Gurley was killed for no reason. So far Akai Gurley, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and others have been killed by cops and they were all innocent.   

8. Dialoguing with Kendrick Lamar

The In Conversation project, designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Laura Schneider

The In Conversation project was inspired by American songwriter and rapper, Kendrick Lamar, and his 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly.”  In this album, Lamar weaves together fragments of interviews with Tupac and creates the impression that Lamar and Tupac are engaged in conversation. The question-answer series on the album is an imagined one, but uses original sources to highlight shared understandings.

Youth artists with Artistic Noise listened to the Lamar / Tupac interview a few times and discussed what kind of questions were asked and in what way. They then brainstormed and identified who their own role model would be. They were asked to choose someone who had passed away and with whom they would have liked to speak. The youth artists then generated questions and researched past writings by their role model in order to reconstruct “accurate” responses. In this way, they generated meaningful “dialogues” with this role model.  The artists then supplemented their dialogues with portraits of their role model, drawing from appropriated photographs. They transformed these drawings into original works by filling the spaces with multicolored original doodles and designs. They also created linoleum prints of their role models, imprinted on city maps, to establish a sense of place.

Workshop Site: Artistic Noise’s Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program, Harlem, NYC

jackiee      20170225_160223

In Conversation with Lil Snoop
Mixed media drawing; Linoleum cut on paper

Artist Statement:

Jackiee:  It’s such an honor to meet a person like you, a person like me, a person who came from the hood, still questioning how you did so good.

Lil Snoop:  I did what I had to, to make it through, I did what anybody would do, but only people like us understand the move.

Jackiee:  Speaking of the move, how you make it out the hood with just simple lyrics, is true that the mind can only speak from what’s in us? Is that why music is filled with negative energy and why I became ‘Syn Luv’?

Lil Snoop:  Listen youngin’, what I preach or do does not affect the path you take, how you see life is how you determine your faith, an honest mind can never be safe but expressing your opinion on life, is my music and my safe place.  I grew up in negativity, sorry, but I would love to give people a taste.

Jackiee:  I understand you went through a struggle but I’ve been there too, drugs and charges, man I used to look up to people like you, but then I realized there is more to music than what you do, positivity is key it’s the glue, it’s my strength and it’s my glue.

Lil Snoop:  It’s a simple issue of two different views, I speak of negativity so people can avoid what I do, but you kids take it wrong and follow my every move, the government gave me a label one I no longer stand up to, a criminal but in reality I’m just a kid with mistakes who finally grew. Don’t be labeled by others that isn’t you, find yourself and you will find what is true, continue to be you.

bishop     img_9033

Capital Steez Interview
Mixed media drawing; Linoleum cut on paper

Artist Statement:

Bishop:  If you had another chance what would you do different?

Capital Steez:  Nothing is a mistake cause every decision you make in that moment u felt it was right, so naa no regrets.

Bishop:  Did you accomplish what you wanted?

 Capital Steez:  I mean accomplishment is a staircase not a door, feel me, so I feel that I really woke people up out of the matrix. Also I think we stayed true to our original goal which is overthrowing the government…

Mixed media drawing

Artist Statement:

Angel:  Do you think your dream came true?

MLK (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.):  We accept infinite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Angel:  What do you think about today’s society, which still has so much racism?

MLK:  We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Angel:  What advice do you have for a black man?

MLK:  We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the

power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.

9. Dialoguing with the events of the fall, 2014

The One War at a Time project, designed and implemented by Teaching Artist, Minotte Romulus

The events of the fall of 2014, including the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Eric Garner, challenged us all once again to respond to the violent policing of black and brown men and women in the United States and to question racial discrimination within our institutions of power more broadly. These events also demanded a broader discussion of inherent bias within the criminal justice system and raised significant questions about racial progress within our country.

Within our Artistic Noise art workshops, youth participants wanted to engage in safe discussions on these devastating issues of systemic racism and to find constructive ways to handle their overwhelming emotions. The large-scale painting was created by girls over a period of months. During this time, our youth artists conceptualized the work through group discussion, drawing and collage and then worked towards the designing of the larger work. Each component of the piece reflects their feelings about this complex issue.

Artistic Noise’s Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program, Boston, MA and Spectrum Detention Unit, Boston, MA

2015_onewarattime_01_smallYouth Artists: Allison , Daniqua, Desire, Dynestie, Fatima, Gloriana, Jaida, Jasmine, Juana, Kayla, Kyara, Latoya, Nasly, Natalie, Nashaunti, Nicole, Marthadarling, Shanice, Shana, Schquana, Skyiasha, Tahlia, Tina
One War at a Time
Acrylic on canvas, 5’ x 8’

Artist Statement:

The piece is broken up into three sections set. On the left is a police car and young man with his hands up with a sign stating “Don’t Shoot.”  This section directly speaks to the our population’s fear of being accused, mistreated, and possibly even being killed without just cause. The lack of detailed faces serves to allow others to relate and identify with our characters. On the right there is a representation of a jury of twelve condemning the accused. The grim reaper takes the place of a judge and below him exists a prison cell holding people who have been condemned. This represents all the lives that have been taken or locked up unfairly. At the bottom of the piece is the most important message. The hands reach up in protest, wanting to be heard and understood. On their arms are written messages for what the community is really seeking; things such as hope, peace, freedom and vitality.

The title,  “One War At A Time”, represents the constant struggle of our population who even in in this day and age has to fight for equality and fairness. It relates to prejudice and how we treat one another and shows the world we want a change.

10. Dialoguing with Kehinde Wiley

The VIP Symbols project, designed and implemented by Teaching Artists, Laura Schneider and Michael Watson

In the VIP Symbols project, our advanced Art & Entrepreneurship participants studied the work and methods of contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley. Wiley recruits men and women of color from the streets of cities around the world and brings these subjects into large-scale portrait paintings. These paintings subvert the traditional “power portrait” by replacing depictions of wealthy and powerful Europeans and European-Americans with black protagonists (of many nationalities) dressed in their own street garb. The compositions and stances often remain similar to the original sources, with subjects appearing similarly regal and majestic, but the underlying content is vastly different. Wiley also dramatically changes the backgrounds, drawing from a wide range of patterns and designs, which also serve to re-contextualize the works.

After learning about Wiley’s art, our youth artists first reflected on ways that they feel powerful in their own lives and chose a pose that reflected this powerful sense of themselves. They then photographed themselves and made pencil and charcoal drawings from the photographs.  To make their own original backgrounds, participants first appropriated the Fleur-de-lis (a common symbol of French and other monarchies) and then redesigned the emblem to reflect a personal stance. These designs were then carved into linoleum and printed. The artists then used Photoshop to merge the linoleum printed symbols with a digital image of their drawing, to produce the final work.

Artistic Noise’s Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program, Harlem, NYC

Charcoal, Linoleum Print and Digital Rendering

Artist’s Statement:

I chose this thinking pose to show that you have choices in life and that someone is always watching over you no matter what. I made a background symbol about life’s choices inspired by the symbols in Kehinde Wiley’s portraits. The handcuffs represent having no freedom—being a slave locked up behind bars for life. The diploma symbolizes focusing on getting a good education instead of being locked up and getting a college degree. For me, the art brush is a way to explain and accomplish your goals. This work shows that I am powerful in all ways.

My Way Out
Charcoal, Linoleum Print and Digital Rendering

Artist’s Statement:

Where I am from, praying is everyday. I pray to make it to see another day. I look to the sky and ask for a way out.

Kehinde Wiley made portraits of people who didn’t have power, posing them as famous rich men painted by master painters. His work shows that black men are powerful and important to society, even if they are not portrayed that way often. I showed myself praying because it represents me with power. In the background, I made my own symbol of a king inspired by the fleur-de-lis.

Born of Knowledge
Charcoal, Linoleum Print and Digital Rendering

Artist’s Statement:

It’s not only the fact that I love to draw, it is rather I have to draw. Drawing is a way of relief, or a specific design of emotion figures, from the simplest of shapes and colors to the deep darkness of your head. What you draw, regardless of whether it is a sketch or a doodle, is a way of transferring to a different world. Art is a bridge formed out of imagination in order for us to travel so far that it can be written and drawn on the simplest piece of paper. You can draw or create who or whatever you want and the eraser is your enemy in reality. Why not draw? It’s as if asking a person why he is alive, no?

In the picture, the book I am reading symbolizes that not all power is obtained through money and strength but through the power of knowledge. In the background, the baby symbolizes that true power and knowledge is born by what you have learned. You are still a child.

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