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Young Talent: FWMoA's Scholastics 2014

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Always a "must see" of the season, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's 2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards exhibition provides the viewer with a menagerie of styles, concepts, and media as hundreds of young voices are offered this slight opportunity to raise their voices above the static of the everyday. Through this process, we find those artists who do not fit the molds of what we expect from a young artist. These voices are many times awarded Gold Key and National Portfolio Awards, and their entries are sent on to judged at the national level, to be compared with their peers and further praised.

Fortunately for these young voices in our region, the FWMoA staff has taken their responsibilities with this exhibition to new levels, received national praise themselves, and has truly written the book on how to foster this young talent. As a result, our regional has many great success stories when it comes to young artist's receiving large amounts of scholarships through the Scholastics program, as well as specific attention which has led to amazing opportunities for additional studies as well as internships. Ultimately, this has produced a group of former regional art students who have achieved wonderful job opportunities, all because of the application of their creativity.

However, in Scholastics, like any other form of human culture, young artists many times follow a number of stereotypical transitions while they mature and we begin to see their work fit into these archetypes such as "the sad art," or "the blanket political statement," or even "the unsophisticated sexuality" and "the no one understands me" works of art. You can find them in pretty much any High School or College exhibition. These pieces are certainly not examples of poor craftsmanship or the result of a lazy mind, but simply part of a phase that most young artists must transition through to eventually find new paths less followed.

As in past years, seen in former local artists like Esther Boller or Seth Boyden, Scholastics is the boiling point where those artists who speak in truer tones, with honest responses to the human condition, rise to the top. In 2014, like any other year, we find a few true gems that pique our interest and ask us to follow them through a world in which their slowly reveals itself as being both more interesting and compelling from standpoints of both design and concept.

These young artists include Austin White, Alison Resac, Brandon Le, Hudson Sharrock, Audrey Roth, Katelyn Miller, Erin Schwarz, Taylor Sordelet, David Ryker, Andrew Tran, Meridian Prali, James Seeley, and Victoria Tippman, among others. Over the past four years or so, Carroll's photography department has dominated the gold keys, and this year was no different. However, Alison Resac's pseudo documentarian, neo-noir voyeurism clearly stood out not because of a technical superiority, but by use of subtle narrative which gives her photos a distinctive mood and much stronger voice, outside of a stylistic or technical device to carry the piece. Particularly gripping, Resac's "Third Degree Burns," which depicts a genderless figure hunched over in the bottom of the frame, with a lit candle balanced between their shoulders and cracking dripped wax cascading down their back. The stark contrast brings Resac's photography an editorial fashion vibe, but with an almost Luc Tuymans feeling as well. Outside of the photographic work, Carroll High School should also be incredibly proud of Aubrey Roth's incredible representational works.

Outside of the "Carroll Collective" that usually flies through the awards, Canterbury High School also posted excellent submissions this year with Austin White, David Ryker, and Andrew Tran. Ryker (who won an America Visions Award for "pointless"), and Tran's sculptural submissions proved to be incredibly articulated and intriguing, but the strength of concept in White's work made his work a standout in the entire exhibition. White's "I Am Not a Terrorist" is an American Visions Award winner, and he received multiple gold keys. White's work centers around photographic processes in one way or another, but are more collaged and similar to Duchamp's "assisted readymades" in certain ways. White sources content from the advertising and media around him, manipulates it, and questions many societal structures and mores. There seemed to be a specific focused placed on the woman as a symbolic vehicle in his work this year, as well as a focus on multi-cultural themes. "Bullseye," another of White's collage pieces, shows off his unique collaging style, very distinct from the more iconic Hannah Hoch, Kurt Schwitters, Kara Walker, or Wengechi Mutu. White's economy of image and cuts produces a much cleaner, nearly photoshopped image.

Another school that came out as a challenger across the board this year was Bryan High School in Bryan, Ohio. This high school in rural Northwest Ohio has benefitted from being close to the headquarters of Etch-a-Sketch (in Bryan) and has developed quite the art department. Hudson Sharrock's painting "Rush," and David Rummel's print "Myself" highlight this institutional skill as well as individual voices. Other "one off" highlights in the exhibition were Katelyn Miller's "Night of the Savanna" print from Westview Junior-Senior High School in Lagrange, Meridian Prali's "Let them Eat Cake" from Homestead High School, and Madison Clock's beautiful assemblage, "Reflective Dreams" from Blackford High School in Hartford City.

Other highlights included the unfortunately under-recognized work of artists like Victoria Tippman's "Humanda" ceramic sculpture, ended up not winning the Gold Keys that they deserved, but were still highlighted by being in the exhibition. Hopefully she and some of the other under-recognized talents do not take this as any reason to stop producing and pursuing the arts. This exhibition is always an example of the rare and amazing talent that is constantly produced in our region and so often overlooked and underdeveloped. Thankfully, FWMoA's Scholastics Art and Writing Awards exhibition is here to nurture what artists it can.

For more information:
2014 Scholastics Art and Writing Awards
Now through April 6, 2014

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