For Dad - Leah Bydalek

Leah Bydalek. For Dad. Grade 12, Age 17. 2013 Gold Medal, Art Portfolio.

Seeking connections—with others or with our own creativity—motivates this next pair of 2013 Portfolio Gold Medal winners. Writer Luisa Banchoff wants readers to “find connections in my lines and paragraphs, in the mutual experiences generated by words.” Artist Leah Bydalek invites viewers to join her “to challenge themselves to think outside the obvious…to extract emotional meaning and let their ideas wander into unbounded realms of thought.” How well do they connect with you? Let us know!

Offline he stands on the moving earth of
a metro car, his backbone zippered to the pole,
his heels cutting wedges into life-stained
carpet. His feet ache to walk a thin line of
purpose between sweaty seats and over the
gap he used to think he’d slip into if he didn’t
watch his step. His hand wants to hold the
paintbrush dipped in streams of consciousness
and run across the silicon city, leaving only
a wall-painted line the color of marrow.

Offline she walks a beam of light away
from filler-worded conversation and
towards the crayon-colored corners of
estranged buildings that dot the lines
of her palms. At night she thinks of
standing on top of the train car and
ripping out the light of the left eye and
holding it up to the gasping wind and watching
the fabric of each caught memory vanish in
the sprinting landscape seen through one eye.

Offline they find themselves together
on the corner of seventh and Constitution
beneath raindrops meant for Noah
so he spreads a map of the city
above their heads and she traces
a path through the destinations
smeared together and they tell each
other where I am, I was, I will be beneath
the dripping canopy of unwavering raindrops,
never looking to see the lights turn.

Childhood scars of sorts marked Leah and Luisa for creative futures. In Leah’s, art allowed her to break out of a self-imposed creative silence she’d borne since middle school: “For five years- during the interval of middle school and of the beginning of high school-I had mentally restrained myself from individuality and creativity. For five years, I struggled to dedicate myself to conformity, for it became apparent during that time, that in order to be accepted, I had to act as another copy of other, human copies. For five years I was unhappy with myself. As a junior… I made my decision to challenge the normality I had so previously pledged allegiance to. It was phenomenal:  I found that I am free, when I view and make art.”

Luisa recalls how a childhood accident led her to see the pain and healing that writing can provide: “When I was nine years old, I cut a gash into my finger while replacing a fountain pen cartridge. I was shocked to realize that the red on my hands was not ink but blood: a true writer’s injury. Throughout high school, writing has been my life’s blood, my Tuesday and Thursday night soccer practice, my Friday night track meets and my weekend-long crew regattas… I am fueled by the knowledge that what I write in my room or backyard may resonate with people I never meet. I write in order to connect with others, to evoke in words those emotions, both positive and negative, that make us who we are and bind us together.”

To see more of Leah’s drawings or read more of Luisa’s poetry, visit our online galleries!

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