Heavy Living Things, Painting by Benjamin Cruz, Grade 12, Age 17, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Idyllwild, CA

Heavy Living Things, Painting by Benjamin Cruz, Grade 12, Age 17, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Idyllwild, CA

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards‘ series on the 2017 Gold Medal Portfolio recipients concludes with Zainab Adisa and Benjamin Cruz, a writer and an artist whose portfolios contain pieces that have personal meaning. In her writing, Zainab uses her own personal experiences to relate to the reader. Benjamin looks to the past to connect with the viewer by focusing his art on the Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II.

Zainab Adisa

“For my portfolio, I decided to choose the pieces that were most personal to me. Each of these pieces has a deep connection to who I’ve become over the past few years and also touches on how society has impacted me. I want people to feel involved and affected while reading my work. I want others to feel as though they have a say in this world and to not be afraid to write about how they’re feeling and what makes them who they are. I am hopeful that one day my writing in whatever form will truly impact others and inspire them.”

On the Phrases of Growing

Poetry by Zainab Adisa, Grade 12, Age 17, Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, Pittsburgh, PA

Dear Mom,
I dream of you softly.
Your sweet accent cradling memories too fond
to be forgotten though too rigid to approach.

1.
It’s no longer 2003 and I do not shuffle
my size 4 shiny shoes across the pavement
in protest of school.
I’ve learned to make it there the past
few years on my own,
though the scratches on the surface
have managed to grow.
I am too old to be carried
from the couch to my bed
and too tall to be covered
in 28×52” polyester blankets.

2.
We are past the terrible pre-teens.
Past open diary pages and fights
over how you know the initials Z.T.
Instead we are one;
the soil of our home staining the palms of
our bare hands and fistfuls of Huckleberry seeds
tossed across our land.

3.
And now I am here,
your essence rooted deeply within every decision
that has carried me through
to my ambitions.
Though we are infinite,
I wonder if you’d like to see me now Mom.

Harvest, Painting by Benjamin Cruz, Grade 12, Age 17, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Idyllwild, CA

Harvest, Painting by Benjamin Cruz, Grade 12, Age 17, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Idyllwild, CA

Benjamin Cruz

“Color and emotional memory are closely related, and I use a monochromatic palette to convey a feeling of historical weariness. I use different visual layers because one singular image is oftentimes not strong enough, and needs balance or a compliment in order to be a successful piece. Circles and squares are reoccurring shapes in my work. The circle is a representation of cycles and historical continuity because it’s a shape with no beginning and no end. Squares do not exist in immediate and visible nature, therefore I use square and rectangular shapes to disrupt the organic forms of humans . . . The incorporation of performance and interactivity into my paintings creates a very personal connection between me and the piece, and a more intimate one with the audience. Performative elements do what a painting cannot do, and therefore it helps to complement and enhance my paintings.”

No Shore, Painting by Benjamin Cruz, Grade 12, Age 17, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Idyllwild, CA

No Shore, Painting by Benjamin Cruz, Grade 12, Age 17, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Idyllwild, CA

To see more Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, past and present, visit our Eyes on the Prize series.

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