Kenley Madison Havard

Woman standing in crowd at Mardi Gras
Older man smiling with Christmas tree in back with children


As a young adult, I find most people my age disregards the advice of older adults in their lives. There is a mentality among young adults that times have changed, and the ways of thinking of their elders are old fashioned and backward. I’ve heard peers say, “Things are different now” or “Times have changed.”

The difficult truth is older adults, like our grandparents or seniors in our community, have lived three or four of our lifetimes. They have lived through very similar situations. We seem to forget our grandparents were once teens who progressed through their twenty’s and all the coming of age experiences. We see these elders as who they have been since we have been alive and idealize their sweet, wholesome nature.

We do not think about the things older adults have gone through that have shaped their opinions and beliefs. We cannot imagine our grandpa sneaking some of his daddy’s beer on a trip away from home, and the idea of a great aunt living on Bourbon Street with a sugar daddy is not even tangible until we hear the story first hand. Our elders were not always wise and thoughtful, but after years of living and watching, they have found the answers to many of life’s questions.

To explore the surprising pasts of my elders, I am creating a series of screen-printed portraits. The printmaking medium is treated in a painterly manner, with each layer building upon the last making the final result unpredictable. The method is similar to how the experiences of the past develop the final personality of a person.

I start with an idea of the color I want the subject in the foreground to be and then start mixing the background colors to be complementary. I choose each color in the background with the potential to have equal luminance with the next color applied so that the background colors are the same value but different hues. I want to have more control over the color of the print, so I never use white or black as a layer. I want to make the subject in the foreground come forward, so I start with the complementary color of the background and then layer different values of that hue until the figure has a high contrast look.

The background is purposefully kept at low contrast values to give it a dream-like feel and emphasize that the events taking place are a memory of their youth. Through color theory, I distinguish the present depiction of my elders from the events of their past.