Have you ever had a dream where you find yourself naked at school? While that may be a nightmare for most, Luis Zepeda likes to infuse his works with a touch of humor, which in his 2014 Gold Medal Art Portfolio, the humor comes from a nude Zepeda. More of his work is shown below. Shannon Daniels aims to communicate acute observations about her family based on her experiences growing up with a strong link to her parents and grandparents in New York City. “Persimmon peels left on the kitchen table. The chipped keys of a piano that is out of tune. Everyday objects like these reveal whole histories of the people who use, save, and discard them.” says Daniels.
Daniels, a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, continues to describe her portfolio in her writers statement: “To approach and relay my encounters with giant, ubiquitous beasts – death, racism, and poverty – I have learned to begin with the ordinary, the small. From hearing family stories over the kitchen table to grocery-shopping in Chinatown market stalls, I’ve discovered that moments that are dismissed as banal or mundane can unfold daily, unspoken truths.” You can read excerpts from her pieces Scale (below) and Ars Poetica (following Luis’ work).
The only thing I can trace back is death. That,
and warped piano lids. The ivory keys are like teeth
before dentures. I ask Grandma when she’ll have it tuned.
She gives a closed-mouth chuckle.
It belonged to the grandfather I never knew.
He had perfect pitch because he didn’t see the music, Daddy says, he felt it.
I scrunch my eyebrows and guess that it’s one of those things
that will rebound and click like a metronome.
We go to Grandma’s backyard and my pointer finger picks out the moon,
like the ivory peeking from an ebony lid. He sees it, too. For a while we say
“Daddy, didn’t you want to be an astronomer once?”
“Yes, I did.”
And I know he’s not just squinting for stars.
Grandma’s mother was a firm believer in tea leaves and tarot cards.
I imagine Grandma, mid-twenties with a cigarette in hand, blonde hair fingered and combed til static caught on, looking over the cards her husband was dealt.
Squeezing the cross hanging around her neck.
I imagine the car, the sweaty press of rush hour, the hospital.
I found the cards in her basement one night, ripped right down the middle.
She called her move to Florida a change of scenery. New state, newborns, new
life. She kept the radio off for much of the ride.
They had had enough music.
Luis, a senior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School in West Palm Beach, FL, has this to say about his work: “My art often aims to change a semi-serious scene or situation into an amusing one by the addition of a single detail. In my case it’s placing me naked in specific places I have been. I create scenes that reflect places I’ve experienced, and can connect with a specific moment or memory there. I chose only to depict myself in the images because it is my personal connection with these places that I was at. In my other pieces I am in a suggestive space rather than a specified place or event in time. Both bodies of work are minimalistic because I only add details I feel are important for the setting or the image and to make the image aesthetically-pleasing and conceptually coherent.”
by Shannon Daniels
I don’t know which hits me first —
the Louisiana spring howling through my windbreaker
or how wordlessly
it passes through the glassless windows
of that front porch. Warped
wood fills with pools of rain.
Water skims down
the side of the gravy boat
like gasoline on the rusted silver.
Alone, back in New York,
my grandmother is draining
the floodwater from heirlooms in her basement,
keeps more inventory of what she’s lost than what she still has
on the back of holiday music sheets.
“Insurance,” she explains, but writes out each brand name, each origin anyway.
1. 3 Wallace silver spoons
2. Picture of Mom, ‘43
3. 1 clay flowerpot, never used, Xmas gift ‘06
How can I forget the weeds bleeding from that slit in the sidewalk,
the makeshift fence of a door hanging by a couple oxidized hinges on the porch?
Black netting beats over the metal gate,
hung from the rooftops of the flooded house
for the girl who stepped out and met
the bullet on the other end of the door
because of a gang war; now the netting hangs
over the bungalow exhaling
two black rest notes, one long silence.