AP Studio Art Exhibition 2021
Please join the Arts Department in celebrating the students of AP Studio Art 2021.
The AP Studio Art class spends the majority of the school year producing a portfolio of artwork for submission to the AP College Board in May. Despite a global pandemic, and virtual classes, the AP Studio Art students of UHS persevered, and have produced excellent portfolios in the areas of drawing/painting, photography, and 3D design.
There are two components to every AP Portfolio:
- Sustained Investigation: exhibits an in-depth commitment to a theme of the student’s choosing.
- Selected Works: exhibits the development of a sense of excellence in art.
For this year’s exhibition, the AP Studio artists are exhibiting work from the Sustained Investigation section of their AP Portfolio. Please take a moment to look through their images, read their statements, and enjoy the show.
- Aurelie Roubinowitz
- Ava Jo
- Isabella Caro
- Micaela Clark-Herrera
- Owen Flanagan
- Cal Deam
- Lucy Hurlbut
- Annika Kral
- Jiho Lee
- Devin Leung
- Brandly Mazariegos
- Athena Nooney
- Madelyn Ockner
- Janavi Padala
- Drew Phillips
- Amelie Scheil
My work explores different ways of marking with uniformly thick black ink on white paper. I use different patterns to create varying textures in the things that I draw. I enjoy looking closely at spaces many glance over at first, such as abandoned stores, or in this case, bathrooms. I chose bathrooms as a subject because of how they are rarely appreciated but often very personal and frequently used places, especially in homes, and have a wide variety of elements to explore. In my larger works, such as the one in a public bathroom with mirrors, or the one depicting a bathroom full of items, I was able to use a wide variety of textures, whereas in some sketches I looked at close up objects and turned my focus to shading.
I have always been fascinated with the relationships between human and animal; more specifically, the scarcity of positive ones in our modern day and age. My paintings imagine what it might look like to see a person interacting with rams, tarantulas, river otters and others—creatures both exotic and mundane, beloved and undesirable. In my work, I want to present each animal as an equal to its human partner. None of the people in my paintings would be complete without the creature beside them.
As humans, we often think of animals as incapable of complex thoughts or feelings. Many of my pieces are simple, intended to let the viewer just enjoy the companionship of person and animal. Others seek to show how the features of an animal can convey mood and emotion just as well as those of a human, by using compositions that highlight the most expressive traits of the creatures being portrayed. For example, my painting of a girl holding a bowl of goldfish in front of her face is intended to draw attention to the fishes’ wide eyes. Their limited room and their marks, which simulate facial expressions, help the viewer see emotion in a non-human face.
To portray these animals and their people, I used acrylic paint on canvas, taking advantage of the vivid array of colors in order to capture the diversity of wildlife.
My series started with the idea of exploring line and form through taking photos of the body. My work before this project has focused on larger conceptual ideas, with projects exploring the effects of wealth and familial relationships. With this series, I wanted to move away from broad conceptual projects. I began by experimenting with different poses, compositions, and backgrounds. I chose to do the entire series in black and white because I wanted the focus to remain on the figures. Initially, many of my photos included other elements. I tried out a variety of backgrounds, and although I chose not to photograph faces because I wanted to focus on the human body rather than on the model, my first few shoots often included clothing.
Eventually, I realized that I was most interested in studying the body up close, focusing on line, form, and texture through the natural curves and details that I found in my photographs. I began to shoot from a closer perspective, and I experimented with ways of cropping and framing the photos in order to obscure which part of the body was in each photograph. I also focused on adding other elements to my photos, specifically texture, which I accomplished using naturally occurring wrinkles or including hair. I want my photos to show a different perspective on the human body, by elevating the body itself as the subject.
In my most recent series, “Study of Music”, I explore my relationship to and interpretation of storytelling. With lyrical figures, images, and layering, the use of colored pencil, graphite, and watercolor, I attempt to reimagine the soft and cohesive dynamics created between the sounds, lyrics, and tones of a given song. Originally, I challenged myself to use an unfamiliar media of watercolor but soon, recognized the beauty of the integration of water and pigment, appreciating the movement and depth that the media can create. I found myself reaching into the lyrics of the music, into the instrumentation, trying to express the feeling of the music while keying the viewer into the composition of the song. Through this series, I have begun to solidify the bridge between the two art forms, attaching sounds to colors, instrumentation to shapes, silence to movement, and perspective to the composition. I examine each song, asking, “Where do I feel this song?” “Where am I escaping to when listening to this?” “What did the artist want me to see?” “Do the lyrics and tones match up? Is there a conversation between the sounds and the words that I can draw upon?” By delving into and combining my passions for diverse genres of music and visual arts, I find myself discovering the purpose of art in my life.
This work began as a mere reaction to the red skies hovering over northern California. The smoke in the air burnt my throat as ashes from just a few miles away descended upon my mother’s car. For the first time, the reality of our environmental direction struck me with force. The idea that fire season was no longer an irregular event, but an annual reality is cause for concern by itself. I was troubled by the normalizations of these devastating events, when the cause has been clear for some time now. That’s why I draw upon the constant smoke in my work: to underscore the recurring nature of these catastrophes. Climate disaster is hovering over us constantly, and, unlike smoke, it won’t clear until we make it.
I use watercolor for its washiness and thin swirls. Many of my pieces are meant to show either a close or distant future in which we have collapsed under the weight of global warming. The ink pen allows me to use an illustrative style, giving me the ability to emphasize pattern and feeling in these gloomy depictions. While I do sketch out my work beforehand using pencil, I always work with the pen freehand. I watercolor first, then let the flow of the paint shape my decisions as I outline and pattern the piece.
It is important for me to represent how the urban space will be affected by climate change. I often include closed shops to reflect the struggles of the small business during this time of crisis. When people think of global warming, they often think of melting ice caps or shrinking habitats in the amazon. While those remain of the utmost importance, the reality is that climate change is knocking on our door, from the cities to the countryside. My illustrations, while dull in their flat watercolors and constant smog, maintain that there is still hope in this fight. They are just, for now, illustrations. However, in each hyperbolic illustration lies a grain of our current reality. My intention is to show that these images are closer to reality than we think.
Dirt - Cal Deam
I can't really make art without thinking of the Anthropocene, an age in which a climate crisis is underway, and humans have for the first time imagined a disconnection between ourselves and the non-human world. I see this age's motif of dominance as widespread in common practices, so I try to address some of the fundamental issues with our ideologies through my art. I think these main problems are the human desires to control, disconnect, and artificially structure, both through our interaction with the non-human world as well as within our own species. In order to create a more sustainable world, I believe those desires must first be addressed. My work is based heavily on anarchist ideals, emphasizing pacifism and a concern for the collective. Although usually seen as a human issue, anarchism is completely relevant to my environmental work as well, as it all addresses the idea of the commons, control, and aggression. Simply, my art encourages people to care about others.
Especially in my more recent art, my use of materials is inspired by the Mono-Ha and Arte Povera movements' use of common, modest materials. I mostly make photography, but there is a performative aspect to a lot of my art, with my photos representing scenes I have made. My current series centers on dirt and the various meanings I see in it. Dirt is an afront to human wishes to cleanse or to remove ourselves from imperfection and impermanence, and its ubiquity also questions the conceived difference between humans and "nature." Through criticizing this distinction between us and the rest of the world in much of my art, I hope that humans recognize our responsibility to the well-being of the planet, not by removing ourselves entirely from "nature," nor by selfishly neglecting it, but by finding ways to constructively coexist with the non-human world.
After learning the foundations of ceramics, I began studying the non-traditional and non-objective art of abstract expressionism. I discovered the revolutionary ceramicist Peter Voulkos, whose treatment of ceramics as sculpture inspired me to delve deeper into fine art.
In shifting from ceramics to sculpture, I began embracing greater abstraction and larger scale. Then, while sheltering-in-place, I experimented with new materials that were available in my home. Reflecting on the potential of non-traditional media and drawing upon Andy Goldsworthy’s local installations in San Francisco, I decided to experiment with natural materials.
In envisioning my series “Sculpture Garden,” I wanted to bring the outdoors in. My local parks and forests are my playground and escape, and the time I’ve spent there has shaped my values of creativity and curiosity. To reflect the places where I grew up, I gathered local materials such as bark from a eucalyptus grove in Pacifica, fallen pine needles from Tahoe National Forest, fern leaves from my backyard, and ivy vines from my driveway. Collecting materials became part of the art: retracing paths through forests in search of pine needle clusters brought back memories from my childhood and a renewed appreciation for the textures and patterns created by nature. Back in the studio, sculpting the chicken wire, I let my instincts take over. Working without a final image in mind, I stretched sections, cut pleats, then shaped it with my legs, bringing my feelings associated with each place and material to life. As I pieced together and applied natural materials to unexpected organic forms, each sculpture became a whimsical expression of my sense of home.
Eucalyptus: 24”h x 18”w x 14”d
Pine Needle: 20"h x 30"w x 30"d
Fern: 40”h x 12”w x 12”d
Ivy vine: 46"h x 3"w x 3"d, 40"h x 3.5"w x 3.5"d
Moss: 46"h x 46"w x 10"d
Mini pinecones: 36”h x 12”w x 12”d
Grass: 52”h x 20”w x 10”d
Each of the paintings in my series focuses on hands interacting with flowers and plants, an interaction that initially might seem trivial. Hands look mundane when viewed from one angle but when you think of the thousands of shapes and forms that our hands take in just one minute you begin to understand the complexity. I chose to develop this idea for my series to explore more than just the intricacies of my subject matter. The summer before my Junior year, my grandfather had to go into emergency surgery and my family flew to New York to be with him. The severity of the situation was a surprise to all of us because he had been a surgeon and was always the picture of health and life. While in New York we spent most of our time at a hospital in downtown Manhattan and, finally, I decided to go for a walk. The things that I noticed were far from what I had expected. I took photographs of flowers that I saw on the street and at a park that were incredibly beautiful, and these are the moments that I remember most from that day.
In my series I show the contrast between the hands and the plants through color, the hands remain in graphite while the plants are in watercolor. It would be easy to say that this contrast was purely to point out the difference between life and death, the hands representing my grandfather and the plants being a sign of life. But, like my subject matter, this choice had more than one angle. The series was made to show how simple beauty within nature helped me through my grief. I chose the vivid colors so that the viewer’s eyes would be drawn to the flowers first and the hands second, representing the flowers as a distraction from my grandfather’s passing. More literally, the hospital was in the middle of New York City and was full of grey tones which made the flowers on my walk stand out even more in contrast with the rest of the city and what I had expected.
Many of the flowers in the paintings are from pictures that I took while on that walk and the rest are from photos I have taken in Sweden during my life, where I spent the most time with my grandfather. Portraying his hands was important to me because they were his source of life. Being a surgeon, he used them for his work which made him the happiest, but he also used them gesturally in many of the memories I have with him. We would go on walks in the forest and he would point to berries and plants, asking me if I knew their names in Swedish and teaching me their origin. In this way, each of my pieces has a different meaning to me and help me to remember his presence in my life.
The main medium that I use is watercolor and graphite on watercolor paper. When I’m creating my art, it goes through many stages. Each plant goes through layers of adjustments in which I use the water to alter and correct my previous marks. Having done many watercolor flower paintings previously, this technique needed little practice before I began my series. Graphite is a material that I am less comfortable working with, and this series was the first time that I attempted to draw hands. I have, therefore, had to do lots of practice with sketching hands and making adjustments to scale and proportions throughout my work, making my most recent pieces the most anatomically accurate. The background for each piece is a base watercolor and I alternate between dark, solid colors and lighter colors with more texture. The reason I decided to paint solid backgrounds rather than filling them with other plants and pots like the images they’re based on was to draw attention to the relationship between the plants and the hands.
Working in a variety of mediums from color pencil to charcoal, I aim to capture feelings of tension in the human body and compel viewers to wonder what will happen as this tension is released.
I find comfort in the resilience of the human body: the way immune cells fight off infection, the way torn muscles rebuild themselves, the way our joints and appendages bend out of place and back again. The body itself is a system with many moving parts, each movement the result of a carefully calculated series of chemical reactions. My drawings, then, seek to express the “right before” – the stored potential energy in the raising of a limb, the contraction of muscle, the temporary displacement of skin or bone. But beyond a purely physical aspect, I explore how emotions of fear, apprehension, and risk can be communicated through bodily movement.
My process begins with a digital photograph. Most of the subjects in my artwork are me, and I often find myself contorting my limbs into strange positions to take photos that capture the body as it is brought to its physical limits – flexed calves, outstretched hands, and pulled skin. Using the digital photos as a guide, I hand draw the images on paper using various mediums.
The style of realism that I adopt in my work is meant to serve as a raw reflection of these physiological processes. In its simplest form, it is self-portraiture. While the precision of ink markings or charcoal shading provides comprehensive insight into the scene, there is little indication of the moments that follow as the body is restored to its resting state, a necessary return to equilibrium.
I find art in language, in words, in phrases. Growing up in a traditional Chinese household with my immigrant grandparents, morals were taught through proverbs and aphorisms — not to rely on luck, not to be narrow minded. There is a story tied to each proverb and through my paintings, I am interested in preserving and sharing the beauty of these tales. Understanding how the mystical stories I’ve heard in my childhood can manifest in our current society. In my paintings, I intertwine elements from a proverb’s story (plums, rabbits) with how that proverb appears in reality (migrants in a desert, gambling), creating my own form of magical realism.
Throughout this process, I have explored my own identity as a Chinese American and a global citizen. I’ve conversed with my grandparents about morality in Chinese culture and how it fits together or conflicts with American culture. I’ve discovered new proverbs and how they describe movements that coincide with current events such as global climate change and deforestation. My series intends to show how proverbs are still relevant today and will never be outdated.
Living in a community that has always emphasized financial gain, I have noticed a consistent neglect for care in our environment, such as pollution and littering. My series of photos explores the community of my home and how we treat the land we live on. My process began with exploring my community on my bicycle with my camera bag hanging from my neck. I rode through hills, streets, and around beaches to get a sense of what my home looked like. Then I shot any location that I felt was impactful, with patterns and beautiful colors. While this is personal, I believe some of my larger community feels something similar however it will be different for everyone.
Through a personal, natural, and financial lens, I hope to examine the city I call my home, Richmond, and how these lenses shape its ideals as a community.
My series shows the life of a person who moves through life dealing with mental illness. It aims to illustrate the everyday realities of different mental illnesses. I chose to mix scenes of everyday life using more traditional photography, and also include more modern pieces using digital media. I draw inspiration from artists such as Nan Goldin and John William Keedy. I admire their ability and courage to not be afraid to show raw emotion and struggle in their work.
In my experiences with mental health, I have often found that someone’s life may look fairly normal from the outside, yet with a closer examination there is something wrong. I try to avoid cliché and want to bring awareness to things that are usually avoided. I want my viewers to really feel what it is like to be struggling everyday, by looking at my photos. My work follows a girl through actions that may seem typical of a teenager: reading a book, scrolling through social media, sleeping, eating with friends and more. However, there is always something not quite right about the situation.
Though it may not be an eating disorder, I think most teenagers, and most people, struggle with mental health at some point in their lives. It can often be hard to articulate to others how these struggles may make you feel, and it is my hope that my art does that. Although the work is inspired by my own experience, I hope that people who view it can see themselves and their own past situations in it.
I sat in the front row of the Western Civ classroom as a sophomore, staring mesmerized at the image of van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait being projected on the white board. I shuddered at the thought of the amount of time it must have taken to execute that level of detail. As much as the paintings I studied in Civ inspired me to pick up a paintbrush, the lack of freetime in my schedule had always kept that paintbrush far out of reach. Afterall, I was already an actor, a dancer, and a singer; I couldn’t possibly be a painter too. So, my curiosity for painting remained a distant pipe dream. Until COVID hit.
Despite the pandemic’s tremendous impact on all artistic industries, the time spent at home and sheer boredom it induced, inspired a universal creative drive. For me, this was the opportunity and the freetime I had been day dreaming of since sophomore year. I finally picked up a paintbrush and an image of the portrait that originally inspired this dream, and with some dollar store acrylic paints, I began painting the Arnolfini Portrait. I did my best to incorporate van Eyck’s style- the details, the emotion, and the mystery of the original piece. But this was my painting, and wouldn’t be complete without an element of my own experience. So, I covered the subjects’ faces with medical masks.
Since that first piece, my work has blossomed into a series of updated masterpieces, which reflect various effects of the pandemic on society in a playful, timeless, and lighthearted way. Because I’m relatively new to painting, emulating the styles of these artists has exposed me to a variety of new techniques to inspire my own style. By using their paintings in my series, I pay homage to their work and directly reflect the inspiration they have given me. These original artworks I study represent the viewpoints of their creator and the time they lived in. By adapting these pieces and adding elements of my own experience, I am establishing a dialogue with those artists. These pieces now reflect two time periods, two viewpoints, and two messages. Furthermore, by working with recognizable masterpieces, I ensure that viewers already have their own connection to my work, and therefore more deeply consider the message carried by the slight changes I make. While my series does represent real impacts that the pandemic has had on society, it does so lightheartedly. I don’t want my artwork to contribute to the solemnity that already exists, but rather create a space for humorous reflection. Seeing an art piece that you recognize and appreciate immediately brightens your mood. Seeing that same artwork altered in a way that makes it even more relatable may even bring on a smile.
In my series I focus on the theme of health, both mental and physical, and what it means to me. I also try to highlight how daunting health issues can feel.
The idea of self vs. self is also quite central, as to me, that is what many health issues are truly about. For example, after having surgery last year, I kept pushing myself to get back to “normal”, but I was often physically unable to do even basic actions. I would describe this conflict between self vs. self as more specifically body vs. self. Similar conflicts also apply to mental health as mind vs. self. In my series, I aim to depict health issues as the struggle between self vs. self in relation to body vs. self, mind vs. self, and the combination of the two.
In process, I use a combination of regular photography and heavily digitally altered photography. The altered photography is often used to show themes of self vs self more directly, in ways that would be impossible in real life.
I take inspiration from artists like Cindy Sherman and Carrie Mae Weems. Cindy Sherman's approach to portraiture, where she at once feels like she is an actor and a photographer, is something that I emulate. She has been described as “shapeshifting” in her Untitled Film Stills, as in each shot she truly changes herself to embody a specific type of female “character”.
I think that I’ve always done things that were more effeminate. I had an older sister that I looked up to a lot. She would do my makeup, she’d have me try on mom’s prom dress; things of that nature that I didn’t reject because I didn’t fear the social repercussions. I was a kid, nobody in kindergarten was overtly pressing norms on anyone just yet. And there was the aspect of privacy; I was just having fun with my sister and, unless I told anyone about it, nobody knew. As I grew older, I was no longer wearing dresses, but I would wear a headband when my hair got too long. I started getting acne, so I took care of my skin. I was injured, I would do yoga. To me, these seemed like very natural, cause and effect situations. And yet, I began to be told that those things were “girly” or “gay”, I shouldn’t do those things if I was a straight boy. This messed with my head; we’re always taught to be effective problem solvers, here I was solving each of my problems.
My art is a reflection of my emotional frustrations with the qualities and actions we associate with gender, but also a representation of how I see these issues through my eyes. I primarily use graphite on paper to depict these actions the way they appear to me: plain. No emotion, no sharp inhales of breath. What I’ve drawn is exactly what it is. I want the viewer to see the drawings and say, “that’s a headband”. Because to me, that’s all it is. Graphite also represents the change that I hope society will undertake. The medium is malleable, perhaps not physically but conceptually. I hope that society is malleable too, and able to be adjusted for the better.
However, I feel as though the balance needs to be found between strictly emotional responses and intellectual ones. By intertwining very simple compositions and concepts with those which are more complex, I attempt to demonstrate the flow of my thoughts, from baseline frustration to deep consideration. While I began with simple drawings of jewelry and posture, I’ve become interested in more abstract concepts such as the relationship between effort and hard work. Furthermore, the addition of color was used to emphasize the gender associations prescribed to each of these objects and actions. Making such pieces has become therapeutic for me, visually connecting the dots that aren’t even connected in my head.
The first, and only, time a math teacher had to call my parents into a meeting was over concern about my microscopic, indecipherable handwriting. Although illegible to my teacher, my parents, and everyone else who attempted to read them, the short strokes that formed my notes showed patience and intent to my studies—and my life—that could only be represented on paper.
My timely process of creation is how I capture the intricate moments in my life: the visuals, emotions, and senses flow through the sharpened tip of my pencil or brush. I can spend hours confined in a single square inch of canvas, infusing it with detail while knowing that the empty space surrounding it will be unpredictable. The first stroke is a risk, the second one is a compromise. My hands are first drawn to features that pique my curiosity, and from there, they expand out to the corners of the canvas. From the saturation to the pressure of my stroke, the outward movement of my artwork becomes a representation of the convergence of time and feeling.
I am interested in how viewers, and myself, can evolve from the process of art-making; essentially, I am on a journey of strengthening my storytelling. When I first began self-portraiture, I blurred out my perceived imperfections as a way of escaping my daily inspections in the mirror. With a fine-tuned brush,I would paint idealized versions of my almond-shaped eyes, the curvature of my nose, and the soft gradient of my lips to form a controlled visage with a vacant expression. My obsession with perfection purged the emotion from my art, and consequently, inhibited my growth as an artist and as a human being. Unexpectedly, this same medium would become the tool for me to unpack my challenges with body image and move towards self-healing. I have found a voice through Prismacolor pencils that allow me to balance my instinct for perfected details with emotionally-potent colors.“Cleanliness” peels away those perfected visions of the body to reveal sensitive manifestations of my emotions on skin. By pushing past the limits of my perfectionism to produce emotionally vulnerable and honest work, I am beginning to see not just the distortions in my perspective, but the beauty in my imperfections.