The Kids Are Alright – Reflections on Amber Jean Young’s Art Exhibition

Rosenthal Gallery is known for its commitment to emerging experimental practices by young artists. The 28-year-old artist uses materials and techniques ranging from fabric constructions and crochet messages to sculpture, drawing, painting and photography to explore interpersonal and familial relationships, and personal history. Her proud parents flew in from New York City to be there at the opening on Saturday, June 9.

Her parents? Pegi and Neil Young. We have known each other since I first moved west from The Bronx and made my home near Skyline Boulevard in San Mateo County. Neil’s ranch was nearby, and I had a friend who worked with Pegi.

Neil and Pegi and their manager, Elliot Roberts, were just stepping out of a SUV limo as I was walking up to the gallery. I recalled visiting Amber Jean’s parents over 20 years ago and catching an early glimpse of the artist-to-be. It was in October, and Amber Jean, about 5 at the time, was carving a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween. When the work of her child’s hands didn’t match the vision she had in her mind, she had a tantrum about the imperfection. As Neil and Pegi tried to console her, I thought to myself, “Ah, an artist in the making.”

And now, she is exhibiting her work as a professional artist. There is a recurring image in the work that gives much of the exhibit continuity. She presents bulldozers and cranes taking on enormous tasks of repair, renewal, and rehabilitation. If I did not know the artist or her parents, I still would be touched by the deep expression of the daunting and seemingly impossible work that life throws our way — no matter whose progeny we are, or what material advantages we may have — when it comes to the internal world of the soul and our place in the universe as we work on the puzzling and messy details of living.

Rosenthal Gallery is located in the part of The Mission District that has become this generation’s Haight-Ashbury, filled with hip restaurants, bars, coffee shops, stores and galleries — a natural setting for Amber’s arrival as an artist in her own right. Do yourself a favor and check out Amber Jean Young’s Letters Home exhibit.

Paul “Lobster” Wells
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