MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The work of Columbia High School Advanced Placement studio art students will hang in the school’s Domareki Gallery until April 30, allowing the public to view art the students have been working on all year, as many prepare to head off to art school in the fall. Each student has five or six pieces in the show that are unified by a specific theme.
“I have them brainstorm seven to 10 topics of interest,” CHS art teacher Curtis Grayson III said in an interview with the News-Record on April 19. “From there they draw out sketches and it’s pretty much a storyboard effect. It gives them a start for the pieces they’re going to make.”
Students who take AP studio art have been in art classes for years, Grayson said, and have reached the highest level CHS offers. They’ve taken foundation art, photography, graphic design and art history classes and have a lot of knowledge about different mediums.
“They all have a vast knowledge because this is the highest level they can be at,” Grayson said. “They have various mediums they can work in and they can change between them. So they have some broad concepts to work with.”
Eliza Anderson, the only junior in the class, focused her work on the intersection of nature and technology. She used watercolors to illustrate her theme, especially for the pieces in which water is heavily featured.
“I took a lot of inspiration from graphic novels and solar punk,” Anderson said in a phone interview with the News-Record on April 22. “That’s this idea that we convert to solar power and it’s an alternative future where we live in harmony with the Earth again. The watercolors give it that natural look and I thought it would be appropriate to use them for the water scenes.”
Anderson still has a year of high school left, but plans to attend art school when she graduates. One of her classmates, senior William Roth, will begin classes at the Rhode Island School of Design in the fall. His concentration in the CHS show is historical characters and their clothing.
“In the Greek piece I did, it referenced a specific myth,” Roth said in a phone interview with the News-Record on April 22. “And there are other deities referenced. They’re also all wearing the same pair of red sneakers.”
Roth, who is planning to be an illustration major at RISD, made an effort to focus on drawing clothes in his work. He’s also working on a graphic novel, putting story panels together to eventually bind into a book.
“I wanted to think about fashion more, especially since I’m not really a fashionable person myself,” he said. “I took AP art history when I was a sophomore and I loved it, and that had an influence on that.”
According to Grayson, other students in the show will also be attending art school, including the Savannah College of Art and Design, the Maryland Institute of Art and Design, the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and Syracuse, New York, Carnegie Mellon and Northeastern universities. Because the studio art class is an AP course, Grayson said the students receive college credits and build a portfolio for when they go to college.
“They’re learning strict deadlines and how to choose the best pieces,” he said. “For the seniors, this is the last show to show off their work at the end of the year. Some of them have had work that was sold, which is exciting. They’re learning how to build a following and become an artist.”
Anderson said she welcomes the opportunity to display her work in the gallery.
“CHS really allows art students to do what they want and express themselves and I think that’s really wonderful,” she said.
Photos Courtesy of Curtis Grayson III