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Curious Wonders

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Julia Pavlick is obsessed with how people look at art at art museums.

She is intrigued by how people view art, how they stand, how they sit, how they tilt their heads or fold their arms.

Pavlick has dozens and dozens of photos on her phone of people viewing paintings at local museums. So when she needed an idea for a painting of her own that fit the theme “curiosity,” she bolted up in bed, only half awake, and realized she needed to paint a scene of people viewing art in a museum.

That light bulb moment led to Pavlick winning first place honors in the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus art show. Pavlick, 17, a senior at Poolesville High School, said she was optimistic she would fare well in the show, but when she saw the incredible work of her peers, she had her doubts.

The JHU show is now in its 13th year. Students from 16 Montgomery County public high schools participated this year and now have their art works on exhibit through March 15. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Of the 236 works submitted, jurors selected 59 to be showcased. Seven students won prizes.

An opening reception for the exhibit was held on campus in January. Parents, students and community residents gathered to view the art and hear the winners announced.

The exhibit is one of JHU’s programs designed to get children excited about STEAM education. The A in STEAM is for “art,” an important component of a well-rounded student’s education. (STEAM is an acronym for Science-Technology-Engineering- Art-Mathematics.) Plaza Artist Materials donated the canvases.

Pavlick’s oil painting, The Museum, took her the better part of two days to complete. She wanted to depict people witnessing art and how people process it.

For her, “art has been something I’ve always done, ever since I could hold a pencil.” Her AP Art Studio class junior year inspired her to consider pursuing art in college. She has applied to several top art schools.

The exhibit was curated by Sherill Gross. The judges were Andrew Wodzianski, professor and coordinator of visual arts at the College of Southern Maryland; and Bryan Hill, patron of the arts. Here are comments from the judges:

1st Place: The Museum  by Julia Pavlick of Poolesville High School. The Museum.jpg
Wodzianski: Conceptually, The Museum is pure joy.  It's both whimsical and provoking. What is the relationship of these three benched people, and what directs their attention?  A seemingly blank wall to their front is unexpected, reserved and sublime. Compositionally, it's clever; the negative space / blank wall to the figures’ front is unexpected yet reserved while the figure on the left breaks the visual plane of an otherwise formal and stagnant composition.  Technically, it's a handsome study in subtle tonality. Those nuanced shadows are well executed.  Bravo!
Hill: This realistic piece is truly beautiful.  Not only did the artist capture a moment in time, but the simplicity and color palate choices define the brilliance of this piece.

2nd Place: Across Differences  by Sarah Asofsky of Quince Orchard High School. Across Differences.jpg
Wodzianski: Curiosity abounds with narrative, technique and material. Negative and positive spaces are figuratively and literally directing viewers' attention to the left-handed focal point.  That area demands attention, but it refuses to easily reveal an answer. Cheers to the mystery.
Hill: The best use of the parameters and the restrictions of the canvas that I’ve seen in this show.  The artist was able to add dimensions and movement to a very technically well-done painting.  This artist’s imagination and attention to detail are remarkable.


3rd Place: Pondering the Page  by Edward Lin of Sherwood High School. Pondering the Page.jpg
Wodzianski: I continually returned to this painting. It's mesmerizing. I am biased: Red and green are my favorite complements, and constructing an interior with such a restricted palette is difficult. Artistic license abounds through clever stylization of form. At first, the painting seems banal. But with repeated investigation, the viewer is rewarded with subtle density. Well done.
Hill: The artist’s color choices are incredible. The use of green tones and the addition of the lamp’s glow add warmth and depth to this beautiful and thoughtful piece.

Honorable Mentions
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Eye of the Beholder  by Shay Johnson of Sherwood High School.
Wodzianski: Contrast is King, and this painting has it. Swaths of great skin tone work against a rich background of biological complexity.
Hill: The artist painted a technically beautiful piece.  The young lady in the foreground is tremendously well done. I am very impressed with the “minds-eye” projection of cells / cellular anatomy in the background. This painting projects the truest form of scientific curiosity.


Curious Wonder  by Larisa Kachko of Sherwood High School.Curious Wonder.jpg
Wodzianski: While most viewers may gravitate towards the child dominating the right, the real treat is with close examination of the left-side mechanics.  The distressed metal is beautifully rendered, with a patina so convincing it would fool a metallurgist
Hill: Quite possibly the most realistic painting submitted in the show.  The artist created a magnificent, photographic quality piece that captures the curiosity of a young boy.


Childhood Imagination  by Amy Krimm of Montgomery Blair High School. Childhood Imagination.jpg
Wodzianski: While the majority of the work in this exhibit denotes "curiosity" with subject matter or material, this painting is a true outlier. There's a beautifully handled sky, an impeccably detailed foot bridge, and then three bizarrely scaled figures. Projecting, I imagine their thoughts: "I'm not funny looking. You are funny looking."  Their gaze is aimed at the viewers.  The viewers are the curiosity, and I tip my hat to the artist who flipped the script.
Hill: The artist painted an incredible piece. The quality and detail provided to the bridge and background are remarkable. 

Mom’s Makeup
  by Claire Yang of Winston Churchill High School. Mom's Makeup.jpg
Wodzianski: This unconventional composition is delightful.  A dueling rhythm of arcs and stripes is easy to miss unless attention is dutifully paid. The subject matter may be innocent, but the design is very mature.
Hill: The artist was able to capture the simple, youthful innocence of curiosity in a terrific painting.


CATEGORY: The Arts, K-12 Outreach