As we continue our series on the 2016 Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, we turn the focus onto two students who use their art and writing to explore the people in their daily lives. Razan Elbaba’s art attempts to transform the way many people view women in hijabs while Allison Jiang uses poetry to describe the beauty she sees around her and in others. Their works allow us to see the world, and humanity, through new eyes.
Razan Elbaba is from Vienna, Virginia, and attends Oakton High School.
“My portfolio, Covered, aims to shed light on identity. I often photograph women in hijab, or Islamic headdress, to bring them into the spotlight. By doing this, these women receive the opportunity to effectively symbolize themselves as who they truly are: peaceful individuals, who are aiming to spark a positive change in the world. By giving these women importance, the world will be interested to learn more and realize that the individuals in the pictures are human like everyone else and these women will be able to make their mark and flaunt their strength and fierceness. I use materials like newspaper print, colored googly eyes, cloth, transparent and shiny paper, glitter, and mirrors to increase the variety of my work as well as incorporate meaning into the type of media used. For example, for Breaking News and American Role Models I used newspaper to replace the hijab to express Hijaby women in the media.”
Allison Jiang is from Holmdel, New Jersey, and attends Holmdel High School.
Olivia Moon is the seagull in all the guided meditation audiotapes, sitting on the mast that
flies away at the end;
Olivia Moon is a olive-skinned almond-eyed hurricane in a world of crayon color labels like cerulean blue and goldenrod.
People feel like they can ask her things like
where do you get your confidence? to which she will toss her hair;
Olivia Moon is physically unable to hear questions that are impossible to answer.
Olivia Moon was sent here from the sky gods,
born from a smoking crater. She thinks she is the one who will start the new world order when really
her parents the sky gods were half-joking.
Olivia Moon is always joking;
people (the same people from before!) say that this will lead to problems.
She is an orb of flickering blue light
that sometimes goes out but only for a second;
she wears lipstick that looks like magic in the mirror but
is a little washed out on camera.
Olivia Moon is the eye for imbalance,
looking out through a sepia filter and
tasting the world.
I listened to the human noise we sat there making and I wonder if there
could ever be anything
more beautiful than this.
Our eyes rustle like jungle animals—the dancing orbs make
such noise, clanging about the walls of the room like a
Liberty bell. I meet yours in the dark; everyone’s are dull and round and so I say:
For you whose image is wrapped around me like blankets;
for you who I find in my calloused fingerprints, and
for you who sees the world through people-colored lenses:
I want to scream to you this until I physically cannot, I want for the hallways of time to freeze for you and I to dance through them
to hear a new language of us spring from this cold pit of my stomach where I keep all my words and
hear it say:
For you who I have waited nights (and years and lifetimes and pages for!),
I want to pluck the stars from the sky and place
them on your tongue.
For you whose voice I hear in Bible verses and for you whose heart was made out of the same love as mine—
For you who I see most clearly in this needle-fog of human and tree and God,
Take me away from this headiness; I want to feel a new kind of dizzy—
Together let’s invent
a time when we wore our poems on our sleeves and used our mouths for speaking—
invent a place where maybe we can be more than specks on a zoomed-out slide—
Do you see this too? You pulse through me like a headache behind my left eye and feel
There are times when I like,
when life is not too fast,
to sit on a bench in the corner of my mind and watch
the faces, like flags, like signposts
rush past like gods,
each an exciting new book to read.
And I wonder how we all fit
on this earth, so small
when there is so much big loving to be done.
I wonder these things and I cradle my heart in my hands;
The strangers roll around like marbles in a frying pan.
There is a pretty green one. It looks like a cat’s eye. Here’s a big one. I wonder what his
children are like.
I rub them into my skin for when life gets old.
To see more Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, past and present, visit our Eyes on the Prize series.