Drew Shields. Dinner. Grade 12, Age 17. 2012 Gold Medal, Art Portfolio. Materials: polymer clay, found object, led light, cloth, wire.
Listen to Drew discuss this work here.

In this installment of our Eyes on the Prize series, we are proud to present our final pair of 2012 Portfolio Gold winners: Drew Shields and Diane Ward.

Drew grew up in Milwaukee, graduated from Pius XI High School, and now attends the Maryland College Institute of Art in Baltimore. His work, in which sculpted creatures inhabit fanciful diorama worlds, enchants Drew more in the making of it than in the finished product. He explains:

I allow the physical forms I find and create to dictate the story. Characters will develop relationships, objects develop uses and settings develop history. I may begin with a creature, and then build another. I internalize their emotions, their problems and past experience. I empathize with them. I allow them to reveal their histories and characteristics to me. Where are they? What are they doing? How do they feel about themselves, their situations and their actions? I find the act of organically creating and discovering characters and their stories much more interesting than static dictation and the final piece.”

Diane, a homeschooled student from Mississippi, now attends Millsaps College in the state capitol, Jackson. Her portfolio embraced an array of cultures and mythologies, and the writing possesses both mysticism and specificity. This was deliberate, as she explains:

“Combining the sweeping narrative of speculative fiction with the attention to words and fluidity found in literary works was a particular goal of mine. I found that during the editing process I was allowed to focus on striving to find the right words and the right way to tell the story.”

It’s clearly all about story for this artist and writer! Listen to Diane muse about the role of mythology in her work here, and check out The Well from her winning portfolio below.


The Well

By Diane Ward (2012 Gold Medal, Writing Portfolio)

You stand on top of the well at the edge of the woods, floating like particles of dust in the air. Thin light bleeds through the pines in a tint of champagne, very nearly the same shade as your hair, but a touch too pale. It’s a trick that the light plays—the inversion of a shadow—and I have to stand a certain way to see you. Your hair envelopes you like a sheet of liquid brass. Your clothes melt into your skin,


wet and


You, too beautiful to have been human, remind me of the fairies from the old myths, of the druids and their stones, and the milpreves that scatter Scotland, and the druid’s glass. I still haven’t caught my breath from climbing the hill and walking past the pasture where the broodmares graze. The bag of stones is heavy when I set them down near the foot of the well. We have a ritual. I bring you rocks every day, little pebbles that I find which you eat like bits of candy. The rocks vanish somewhere in your mouth.

You don’t chew,

You don’t swallow,

They melt.

And I think it makes you happy somehow.

Smiling today, you reach out a hand. Normally you’re statuesque, so my heart leaps at this gesture. I take your hand and kiss the inside of it. Your palm feels warm, like touching a light-bulb for only a second. Then I press a stone in your hand and watch as it vanishes. The stones I bring you are ugly things—pieces of asphalt, hard bits of clay that I find on the sides of the roads or along the sidewalk, but you seem to like them.

I sit and talk to you for hours, placing the rest of the stones in between your lips and in your hands until they’re gone. I’m sure you understand what I’m saying. I promise I’ll see you tomorrow before I leave for school. The feeling of your hand haunts me the rest of the day.


When I go to meet you the following morning, the night hasn’t entirely faded. The walk from the dorms to the pines is half a mile through the pasture and undergrowth of the forest. By the time I make it to the well, it’s just past dawn, the sun lazily crawling into the sky and my feet soaked in dew.


The well is covered in green moss, and the stones have crumbled away as the mortar erodes. I circle the well, stopping and walking again, waiting for you to come into perspective. When I eventually look into the dried well, I see all the stones I’ve been giving you. They’ve turned a strange color—pale gold, the same as your skin.

As I climb down the well, I scuff my clothes on the dank edges that coat the earthen sides. I hit my elbow on something jagged, and it starts to bleed. The well is shallow, only about eight feet into the earth. It’s been filled in, or maybe it was never really a well to begin with.

When I reach the bottom, I notice the warmth of the stones, each of them pulsating. Some of their centers burned away as if acid has dripped inside. I can see a thousand of reflections of myself in their glassy surfaces.

On a whim,

I take a stone

and place it in

my mouth

and it melts.  

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