Drained, Drawing & Illustration by Aylen Mercado

Drained, Drawing & Illustration by Aylen Mercado

One of the recurring themes we saw in the entries to the 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards was the struggle minorities face in the United States. From stories of police brutality to the plight of migrant workers, the students tackled these difficult subjects in their art and writing. Portfolio Gold Medalists  Trace DePass and Aylen Mercado used the people around them, the neighborhoods they live in, and the harsh reality for many minorities in the United States as the inspiration for their portfolios. Their words and images shed light on aspects of American life that are often kept out of the news and sometimes thought of as problems that many believe don’t affect them directly. Trace and Aylen decided to confront these issues head-on, making powerful statements through their work.  Read More

Feel the Burn by Max Johnson via Alliance for Young Artists & Writers on Vimeo.

Comedy is a difficult medium. What’s funny to one person can be a bore to another. This week’s Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, Max Johnson and Ron Anahaw, took a chance with using humor in their art and writing, and it really paid off. What’s really impressive about Max’s work is his distinctive animation style–as soon as you see the title card, you know it’s from Max. Ron infuses his writing with a lightheartedness that makes his characters feel like someone you already know, or want to know. Both of these students know a good joke when they hear it, and are experts at using humor to enhance their work. Read More

Black and White Condention 2

Black and White Condention 2, Tanner Rhines

For week two in our series profiling the 2015 Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, we’re taking a look at Monique Taylor and Tanner Rhines. Monique and Tanner use their art and writing to understand the way people, our cities, and our societies fit together and come apart. Their works compact expansive feelings, human histories, and settings into packages that make you delve deeper into fascinating spaces and thoughts you normally would have overlooked.

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Benjamin Bear, Black

 

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. —Barbara Kingsolver

Knowing what you want to say before you put your pen to the paper, click the camera shutter, or dip your brush in paint takes time to figure out, but it is well worth the effort. One of the criteria the Scholastic Awards jurors look for is a personal vision or voice, and this year’s Gold Medal Portfolio recipients’ works are speaking loudly and clearly. These works are personal and public; they focus on the small things in life and the big ideas. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to explore these works, and the artists and writers behind them, in their own words. Benjamin Bear and Edil Hassan will kick off our series on the 2015 Scholastic Awards’ Gold Medal Portfolio recipients.

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Elevated Place by Brandon Brooks, 2014 Gold Medal Art Portfolio

Nathan Cummings and Brandon Brooks rely on the natural world for inspiration and to create, dazzle, and amaze their audiences.  Movement—whether it’s the unexpected flow of bent wood or the harmony of sound, tongue and teeth to pronounce a single word—also plays a central role.

Explains Nathan:  “I am a devotee of the arcane and bizarre: my writing includes pieces on phantom fish, conjoined twins, and the sheer improbability of the word syzygy (SIZZ-uh-GEE). This is my “normal,” the gear at which I’m used to operating.”

In astronomy, syzygy– the alignment of four planets– is a rare and fascinating occurrence. But for this poet, the process of saying the word and envisioning its reality stirred his imagination.  Can you see it as the planets spin below? Read More

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Contour by Luis Zepeda, 2014 Gold Medal Art Portfolio

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). Read More