Behind the palette: student artists take on deep subjects at weekend exhibit
To circle the Russells Mills Schoolhouse on Saturday was both haunting and awe inspiring.
Watercolored and penciled images of cheetahs shedding fur and flesh, cigarettes burning through a cheek, and green army gear contrasted against the tan map behind it were a few images adorning black backdrops for the high school's AP Art exhibit.
"My concentration is the strength of the human spirit," said senior Matthew Gonsalves, explaining pieces touched with army camo, dog tags, and machine guns.
His favorite of his pieces is titled "Locked up." It portrays a human heart, layered in chains, and a lock that isn't really containing anything.
"The heart is probably the strongest part of your body. It's where courage comes from," said Gonsalves. The piece is about breaking through your obstacles, he explained, adding that he was inspired by his own experience of returning to football despite three hip surgeries.
The 21-student class will have to submit 12 pieces of themed work, along with 12 pieces of "breadth," or pieces that display various technique, to the AP board in May. The art exhibit served as motivation for students to finish off pieces before the deadline and show off their progress, said Teacher Christine McFee.
"Seeing the show up with no one here but us, I was like 'This looks really good,'" she said, adding that the snow day jammed up the class's preparation time for the weekend exhibit.
Students displayed various mediums — including oil pastels, water colors, and colored pencil — for the exhibits, but it was their subject matters that were more hard-hitting.
Senior Jordan Sparks' pieces include a Sweetheart box full of cigarettes, a crossword puzzle that reads "[expletive] you" in sign language, and multi-colored wrists stamped with barcodes.
"All of my pieces sort of show something strong, but you have to read into it," said Sparks, whose theme was human reaction.
Although she prefers to use tempera paint, her piece titled "Exploitation" is in colored pencil and newsprint. It's a statement on human trafficking, with the research to back it up.
Sparks explained that she researched the countries with the highest human trafficking levels, but used a variety of skin colors to show that the problem exists everywhere. Even the numbers under the barcodes are written in each country's native language — which includes English, Chinese, and Thai, she said.
"The articles pasted in the back of them were pretty hard to find," she said. Sparks said the issue doesn't get enough attention.
Sparks plans to use art in her career, but hopes to also keep it as a hobby. As of right now, she plans to study communications and advertising at San Diego State. Gonsalves will head to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy next year.