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High School Art Show Inspires Transitions

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Karis Lee was one of only about 10 students in her grade when she attended private school. After sixth grade, she transferred to a Montgomery County public school, with hundreds of students in her class.

That transition, the now-16-year-old recalled, was a challenging time for her. What helped, she said, was when students at her new school recognized her talent for art.

That talent propelled her to take first-place honors at the annual Johns Hopkins University art show for her piece titled Renewal. The acrylic painting depicts a girl with peacock feathers; the feathers represent pride. In the painting, the girl is trying to remove feathers from her hair, but they keep growing back. The pride the girl has is symbolic of the pride Lee said she felt when people recognized her artistic talent.

The theme of the show was Transitions, so that’s why Lee reflected back on that stage of her life.

“Before you are able to renew yourself, you have to let go of your pride,” Lee said. “She’s upset because she can’t get rid of the pride no matter how hard she’s trying.

“Pride isn’t seen as a good thing in society,” Lee continued. “If you want to be seen as a better person, if you want to renew yourself, you have to let go of the pride.”

The JHU show is now in its 12th year. Students from 17 Montgomery County public high schools participated this year and now have their art works on exhibit at the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus through March 16. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Of the 213 works submitted, jurors selected 51 to be showcased. Six 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.

Lee is a junior at Winston Churchill High School and takes art classes for part of the day at the Einstein Visual Arts Center. She has taken private art lessons.

She found out about the JHU art competition a few days before winter break, but didn’t receive a canvas until less than two weeks before the due date. “I only had 10 days to work on it,” Lee said. “Ten days! I was freaking out!”

The judges were Russ McIntosh, a local artist; Nadine Kenefic of Plaza Artist Materials; and Bryan Hill, patron of the arts. Here are comments from the judges:

1st Place: Renewal  by Karis Lee of Einstein Visual Arts Center. Renewal 1st place 2018.jpg
McIntosh: The color and composition is what first captured my attention. It was the precision and focus on detail this artist used that won it over.
Hill: The painting’s realism may be the best I’ve seen in this show, ever. The female, peacock feathers and scissors are incredibly well done. The artist was also able to convey a level of raw emotion that I’ve only experienced by professional artists.
Kenific: Great technique, and it expressed the essence of the theme in a thoughtful way.


2nd Place: Beneath the Brave  by Amanda Fischer of Quince Orchard High School.Beneath the Brave 2nd place 2018.jpg
McIntosh: The visual imagery of this piece astounds the imagination. It was upon closer inspection I became aware of the form being ripped away to reveal a masculine physique underneath. 
Hill: The artist best utilized the theme and produced a very powerful statement. This piece is terrific in many ways. The artist created motion. I can sense the female flesh being removed from the male below. The addition of multiple hands tugging at the skin is a terrific metaphor.
Kenific: Done exceptionally well transitioning from female to male. Captures the theme. Object placement and color palette fit the mood. 


3rd Place: Goodnight Fall  by Sadie McBride of Quince Orchard High School. Goodnight Fall 3rd place 2018.jpg
McIntosh: I thought this was a nicely composed photo as I glimpsed at it initially, then I realized this was a painting. I was taken aback by how this artist was able to capture that focus of the sun and background landscape and maintain the focus of a trained camera’s eye to the foreground. Amazing!
Hill: This piece is so well done I initially thought it was a photograph. The depth and precision are absolutely amazing. I truly appreciate that the artist only represented a single, solitary leaf in the foreground. This represented the last moment of conversion from fall to winter.
Kenific: This piece is just stunning! Advanced techniques and beautiful work all around.



Honorable Mentions

Sewn Up  by Caleb Boyd of Springbrook High School.Sewn Up Honorable Mention 2018.jpg
McIntosh: I love the artist thought outside of the box with the media used. Very creative!
Hill: The artist created a very unique and thought-provoking piece. I appreciate the simplicity; it is really well done. The swirling red background adds depth. The folds of the resting manikin add realism, but the use of string and uneven stitching are absolutely brilliant.
Kenific: Very dramatic piece. Wonderful colors. Great shadowing. Simplistic but effective. Love the canvas stitching to create more drama!


Brood X: Emergence  by Madeline Hook of Northwood High School.Brood X Emergence Honorable Mention 2018.jpg
McIntosh: As local to this area, the cicadas are one thing we look forward to hearing. This piece expresses that period nicely, down to the bird in the shadows with its eyes that line up with the tree knots and the thousands of airborne cicadas flying aimlessly.
Hill: The artist demonstrates incredible technique. The emergence of the cicadas and use of color are amazing. The addition of eyes to the trees and realism of the cicadas transformed this piece into a fantastical nightmare.
Kenific: So much going on to grab your attention. Beautiful subject matter. Good technique. A lot of details done very well. A lot of work went into this piece that needs to be appreciated.


White-Haired Girl  by Karen Lee of Quince Orchard High School. White-Haired Girl Honorable Mention 2018.jpg
McIntosh: Very well executed. I love how there is a story within the story of this piece.
Hill: The artist’s attention to detail created a world of imagination. I felt like I was looking through a window into a much larger world.
Kenific: Interesting piece with many thoughtful details to create a great overall subject.

CATEGORY: The Arts, K-12 Outreach, In The Community