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  • Thea Foundation

Highlighting Our 2019 Visual Arts Winners: View the Work & Read the Artist Statements

Earlier this week, we announced the winners of the 2019 visual arts scholarship competition. This year’s theme was “Grandiose and oversaturated.” During the judging process, each student’s interpretation of the theme was heavily considered. As a way to continue to highlight the talent of this year’s winners, we’ve included each of the ten winning pieces with the artist statements paired accordingly below. Providing scholarships to students across the state is an honor for the Thea Foundation, and we ask that you join us in celebrating this selection of student work. The winning works are on display at the Thea Foundation through the end of March.

1st place — awarded a $4,000 scholarship

Inversion of Importance

Esther Crisler

Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy

Esther’s Statement: I made this piece after I discovered that potato plants actually grow flowers that turn into poisonous fruit if the climate is humid enough. I realized that the most apparent part of the common potato plant, the part unhidden by dirt, is often the least seen and understood. I decided to twist how most people view potato plants by treating the above-ground green half as ordinary and allow the tubers to confront the audience with their perceived mundane nature. Because the upper half is 2-D and rather plain, the viewer may think about how little they know about ordinary potatoes and how they grow above ground.

Inversion of Importance is a metaphor for the human experience. Humans tend to over-accentuate what is important or useful to them and neglect the most obvious beauty in the world. Humans look at life and see all the world and dig deep under it to find something practical, ruining whatever was on top.

Potatoes are not inherently flashy, which makes them the perfect symbol for humanity's natural inclination to overlook beauty. Since a potato is so simple and humble, when it is oversized for the sake of art, the artwork itself becomes grandiose as it moves towards surreality. By making potatoes into metaphorical art, it pushes them to their limit of usefulness; it oversaturates them with meaning.

2nd place — awarded a $3,500 scholarship


Amber Alvizo

Clarksville High School

Amber’s Statement: Two. Two people. Two panels. There are always two sides to situations: what you see and what everyone else sees. There are two sides to our thoughts as well: what we think and what others think. However, sometimes we allow other’s thoughts to affect our own.

Mixed-media is the format in which I like to tell my stories; it does not limit my imagination and allows me to use a range of materials and techniques. This particular piece has, at the very least, six separate techniques. It began as a traditional pencil sketch, which I then transferred onto a drawing tablet and painted digitally. With the digital painting now printed on cardstock, I added small detailing to the printed piece using markers, ink pens, and actual makeup. To obtain the psychedelic effect on the background and bodies, I used the pour art painting technique. As a final touch to the piece, I stamped encouraging words to the sides of the panels and covered the entire piece in epoxy resin.

This piece was meant to illustrate the negative comments people say. It shows that even with positive thinking and positive words, other people’s negativity still slips in. With this in mind, people need to be conscious of the weight their words have. The over-saturated colors represent people’s negativity; the colors are overwhelming and take away attention from the centerpiece, much like how negativity can be overwhelming and distract you from all the positive things in your life. The glaze over the piece adds a reflective surface to mock the mirror that I am asking you to look in. However, it can also have the double meaning, such as the glaze that drips over the side represents the bad seeping into the good. Delusions of grandeur appear with the belief of the lies you are told by others.

3rd place — awarded a $3,000 scholarship


Kerryann Ptacek

Bentonville West High School

Kerryann’s Statement: Everyone has those days where their mind is so scattered and overwhelmed, they become bewildered. I wanted to capture this discombobulated feeling through this painting. The girl featured in this piece has no distinct features, they are all jumbled. I purposely layered her face in multiple colors to create chaos, in order to convey disorientation of the girl's mind, as well as within the viewer's mind. The painting is overwhelming to the viewer's eyes, unable to know which part to focus on. Furthermore, when the viewer changes perspective and proximity to the painting, the colors appear to eliminate each other creating white in various places, due to the additive color law of optics. This adds to the perplexity of the artwork. When I hear the words oversaturated and grandiose, I think of an overload of color and capacity, and an uncommon, absurd exaggeration. My painting depicts both. I used bright colors to capture the viewer's attention, yet the confusing arrangement and overlapping of the face strain the viewer's mind. I wanted to exaggerate the feeling of being overwhelmed and formulate a unique interpretation of a frantic mind.

4th place — awarded a $2,500 scholarship


Madison Brewer

Van Buren High School

Madison’s Statement: Social media has ruined the morals of humanity. In recent times, people have stopped caring unless they get something out of the situation. Nobody helps people anymore. Society is too busy trying to get the most likes and subscribers to notice how bad we as a people are becoming. Phones and technology are glued to us. We see the world through a tiny box rather than walking outside our houses. Phones and cameras have tons of capabilities to help others seek justice or get closure. But we see our technology as a weapon. A means to destroy and tear each other down and to fight pointless fights. In this artwork I have oversaturated people with cameras as heads. They are mere onlookers to the pain and devastation of people in a vulnerable situation and unwilling to help a stranger for their personal gain.

5th place — awarded a $2,000 scholarship


Lillian Greer

Little Rock Christian Academy

Lillian’s Statement: Culture is at the core of every individual. Our lives revolve around a multi-faceted ecosystem where we identify ourselves. In this piece, I amplified traditional Hispanic-Catholic culture to restore the dignity of immigrant children and to show that their struggle can still hold beauty. I pieced together a sense of honor through my references to the grandiose figure of the Virgin Mary. I created oversaturation through the high chroma of my color scheme and my varieties of texture and media. My combined use of oil and watercolor allowed me to not only achieve a large range of texture but also allowed me to explore the idea of combining things that do not mix. My purpose was restoring the dignity to a child and thus to a whole generation of Mexican American immigrant children, whose images are so quickly forgotten.

6th place — awarded a $2,000 scholarship


Tiffany Hobson

Oden High School

Tiffany’s Statement: Just as the hues rise gradually from their muted tones into full vibrancy, so does the scholar who accepts the challenge to climb towards the splendor that is knowledge. We begin this life all as blank script, gradually filling our pages with experiences and ideas, growing in our intellectual vibrancy, and reaching higher towards the grandiose brilliance of understanding. This pursuit of erudition unlocks the magic and grandeur of life and the well-read are given privy to the exceptional. Still, this oversaturation of information, captured within the records of great minds, gives us one more solidified gift: we can always learn more.

7th place — awarded a $2,000 scholarship

Dreams and Plans

Paetyn Monroe

Van Buren High School

Paetyn’s Statement: My piece is a self portrait. Although I incorporated the theme into the artwork literally, I also used it in a metaphorical way. Dreams for the future can sometimes be extreme and seemingly impossible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach them eventually. If you look back at where you were before, you’re always making it farther than you ever had. No dream is too big for a person who tries.

8th place — awarded a $2,000 scholarship

Vivid Life

Addison Harper

Sylvan Hills High School

Addison’s Statement: As an artist I strived to encompass the theme grandiose and oversaturated through my photography. In “Vivid Life” I tried to capture the radiant lights all around me, the colors were so vividly, beautiful and contrasted against the dark of night. The lights are a reflection of the world and all the different colors that come with it. Life surrounds us all in different ways, colors, and shapes, and “Vivid Life” shows that feeling of happy and dark. The contrast between the beaming light and darkness of night is a metaphor of life because life can be bright and positively radiant, but also can bring dark despair. All the colors represent the different types of people and situations we encounter in our lives, and my goal through my photography was to convey the monumental idea of life being different both dark and light.

9th place — awarded a $2,000 scholarship


Lucy Gatewood

Episcopal Collegiate School

Lucy’s Statement: Working on this piece was a mix between experimenting and mastering different techniques, for me. I really love working with charcoal and portraiture, but I was able to experiment with transparency, simulated textures, and florescent colors. This piece addresses the theme of grandiose and oversaturated by using the different fluorescent colors and ornaments worn by the Indian bride to emphasize this theme. There is significance in the jewelry depicted in my piece, as it represents a woman's security and power in her marriage. It is meant to depict a woman's beauty, while at the same time be empowering and inspiring.

10th place — awarded a $2,000 scholarship

Time Square Alternate Dimension

Margaret Maddison

Little Rock Christian Academy

Margaret’s Statement: When I hear “Grandiose and Oversaturated,” I think of a headache. I got a horrendous one whilst walking down Times Square in NYC. The street was surrounded by highlighted advertisements and bustling busy bodies. One couldn’t tell day from night when strolling down this road. It wasn’t just the neon lights that caused my skull to tighten, it was the immense crowd of people! Being someone who isn’t a native to the city, I was baffled by the fact that no one seemed to bothered in the least by the flashing lights and loud noises! Were they all blind or deaf? Obviously not, however I noticed a good majority of them had headphones in. Did the headphones have something to do with their obliviousness? What is the purpose of them? With my piece, I wanted to portray how headphones can be both a retreat to one’s own private dimension and a “grandiose” symbol of reservation amongst the “oversaturation.” My main subject is an average New Yorker making his daily commute through Times Square. Like the crowd traveling with him, he has his headphones on. I wanted to focus on what his headphones grant him access to. Around him is a portal of bright purple energy, prussian blue glows beneath him, and crimson neon runs alongside him like that of a subway tunnel. This color scheme is similar to the rest of the piece, but the negative space indicates that it is his own private dimension. This illustration is a glimpse into the grandiose statement of reservation! To what extent should this portal be used?

I can most certainly understand the appeal of solitude (I, myself, crave the feeling of being alone after a busy day), but having them out during a social setting practically trumpets a message saying, “can’t talk right now.” Perhaps we have a right to our own private dimensions, however we shouldn’t abide in them for too long. Personally, I wouldn’t want to miss a broadway show just because of my headphones.

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