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Bright Young Things: 2015 Scholastics Art and Writing Awards at the FWMOA

2015 Scholastics Art and Writing Awards at the FWMOA

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Nearly a decade has gone by since this writer has covered the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s “Scholastic Art and Writing Awards” exhibition, which highlights young talent drawn from high school students throughout the tri-state area. This exhibition is a visual smorgasbord, as the walls of the museum are covered with hundreds of pieces of art ranging in content and media.

Over the years, this wild diversity somehow turns into specific patterns and the viewer can begin to understand certain trends and consistencies in the teen zeitgeist, the high schools producing the students, and the students themselves. Certain names come back repeatedly, either growing stronger or fading as other interests likely take over their lives. Certain schools, like Carroll High School and Canterbury School, have gained a strong prominence in these exhibitions, while other formerly dominant schools like South Side High School have faded in overall awards, while still producing standout artists. In the 2015 exhibition, Carroll seemed to have taken the clear lead in producing the largest number of gold key winning pieces. Yet, such is the art world, in that quantity rarely trumps quality. Carroll High School still produced amazing work, but its dependency on photography has seemed to create a somewhat derivative culture, where it was difficult to separate artist’s work out visually. Other schools, like Whitko and Dekalb were on the opposite side of the spectrum, and seemed to produce a much smaller number of award winning artists, but their voices were distinct which made their individual work stand out with more prominence.

As far as general trends seeming to be dominant within the teen art world, photography was incredibly prominent in this exhibition. More than half of the exhibition was some form of photographic process, and few pieces were of alternative processes making much of the work blend together in general. There also seemed to be a shying away from three dimensional media, specific non-ceramic sculpture. The figure was also dominant as young artists grappled with a plethora of identity issues. Given the growth of this exhibition, it is no wonder that our region, which has been ranked in the top 10 regions nationally for the past 8 years, had a record-breaking year winning more than 50 National Medals.

However, any exhibition, no matter how prestigious, and no matter where it is located, must ultimately be judged by the quality of the individual works of art presented in it. The “2015 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards” was exciting in that it contains the largest number of individuals who are clearly defining their artistic voice and expressing their views throughout bodies of work. This is a strong distinction; typically, most work being produced by teens is fit into easy curricular models by the student’s teachers, and the viewer will see multiple similar technical methods or formalistic concerns throughout the exhibition. But in 2015, we see artists breaking out of these art project molds and defining their own methods of production and assimilating imagery and media specific to their projects.

Cheney Rose, a South Side High School senior, clearly does this in her body of work, which includes mixed media sculpture, appropriated “ready mades”, and photography to create a raw, sarcastic, and intelligent view of the numbing and controlled lives of contemporary youth. The television acts as a focal point in her work, being both the object of attention and control as well as the source of pacification. The feeling of slowness and haze come across all of her work in a variety of methods, both visual and conceptual. In pieces like “Supply Meets Demand,” Rose hints at the binary systems present in sexuality as well as the conspicuous reality that “teen sexuality” is produced through our society as much as, if not more so, than through physiology. In “The Hope For Our Future,” Rose simply photographs a young boy in front of a television displaying vibrant static. The sense of condemnation in Rose’s work is subtle in that she uses strong ideas, presented in mostly simple formats, but with some strong design skills that the images become infectious. In this way, Rose uses the medium for our decay as the source code for our salvation, like a canary in the coal mine in discussions of evolving young talent.

Another artist who is clearly in control over her medium of choice and is leveraging her unique voice in her artwork is Taylor Terrell, a Carroll High School senior, and a winner of 10 gold key awards. Because of the large variety of photographic works in this exhibition, Terrell’s work clearly stood out above and beyond much of the other work in its ability to command the viewer’s attention, and the humble skill expressed in the construction of the images. Terrell’s work revolves around the female figure and is largely based on the role of the body in the construction of identity. Terrell’s pieces like “Stitched” and “The Bare Minimum” are clearly describing issues with self-confidence, self-consciousness, and ideals of feminine beauty, while “Twisted” is an image of ambivalence that feels like a modern day masterpiece of silence, repose, and contradiction. “Twisted” is a National Gold Medal Award winner.

While not all of the artists in the exhibition could be so lucky to win a National Gold Medal Award, there were many amazing artists in this exhibition, including Audrey Ottenweller’s encaustic photography, Madelyn Foutz’s amazing comic character inspired paintings, and Andrew Tran’s sculpture. Once again, this exhibition clearly proves the need for investment in our young artistic talent a city, a region, and a nation.

For More Information:
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
2015 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

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