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Mature Beyond Their Years: The Quad City Arts High School Invitational, Through May 19 - Page 2 PDF Print E-mail
Art - Reviews
Written by Michelle Garrison   
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 05:01

Erin Johnson, 'Impugnable'

Senior Erin Johnson, from Pleasant Valley High School, presents another acrylic and marker mix with stylistic flair in her lighthearted work Impugnable. This canvas, about two feet squared, shows two pug dogs centered on a background of overlapping, vertical brushstrokes in shades of green. The dog on the right is larger, on two legs, and turning to look over his shoulder at the viewer, while the dog on the left is much smaller, and standing on all fours. Their fur is mottled, watery gray, brown, and yellow paint, with splotches and drips overlapped by black marker hatching. In contrast, their vibrant blue eyes are cleanly rendered and stare, begging, at the viewer. The dogs’ proportions are simplified and cartoonish, with tiny pointed forms for legs. Their expressions make the viewer feel both endeared and implored – an experience many pet owners know. The visual style is compelling, with the messy paint drips contrasted against clean marker lines and the cartoony appearance. The placement of the emotive dogs with no background context also suggests an open-ended tale.

Katie Whiteman, 'Centennial Bridge'

The exhibition’s paintings show some of the most impressive technique, especially in the still-life genre. Moline and Bettendorf high schools especially present exceptional oil painters working in a realistic style. Immediately eye-catching is Katie Whiteman’s triptych Centennial Bridge. The sheer ambition of a high-schooler tackling three two-foot-square canvases for a single image is impressive, but pulling it off with correct perspective and proportions, dramatic lighting, and expressive color is to be applauded. This picture of the bridge depicts a light blue at the top of the sky fading to a dark purple-blue at the horizon. The lights of Davenport, and on the bridge itself, twinkle in yellow, and reflect a deep orange into the Mississippi. Whiteman added interest to the sky with cross-hatching brushstrokes, and gave the lights extra twinkle by scratching away paint in energetic scribbles around their perimeters. This dramatic yet familiar scene employs strong expressive realism.

Nick Lennon, 'Brothers'

An equally ambitious oil painting is Brothers, by Moline senior Nick Lennon. This canvas, about five by three and a half feet, shows a guitar and drum set, with a stretched canvas in the background, all viewed from just above floor level. The perspective challenges presented by this unusual angle, coupled with the lines of the drum kit’s hardware, were handled well by Lennon. The proportions and colors are true-to life, but with the feathery feel of a brush-stroked and layered painting. The title, as well as the objects included in the composition, add some thought to this still life. The viewer wonders if this is a familial narrative about brothers jamming in a basement, or a more metaphorical relationship.

Samantha Chavez, 'What’s for Lunch – Triptych'

Using paint on canvas in a completely different way, Davenport Central’s Samantha Chavez creates detailed and stylized characters engaged in a visual joke with her acrylic piece What’s for Lunch – Triptych. These three canvases, each about two by one and a half feet, contain anthropomorphic, cartoonish animals. The left panel features a moose/octopus holding a cow taco; the center panel has a winged rodent chewing a crustacean sandwich; and the right panel includes an elephant holding a peanut bearing a child’s face. The vibrant color scheme adds to the animated flair, featuring saturated purples, pinks, blues, and oranges, and the precisely repeating zigzagged, spotted, and striped backgrounds are the equivalent of a visual shout. Chavez’s repetition of color, and her use of bold, simple shapes with flat colors, balance the craziness to create a fun feel. Despite the simplicity of silhouette, each animal has tidbits of detail – such as the bracelet on the elephant and the layered shirts on the octopus. The use of acrylic is clean and impeccable, with not a single errant brushstroke, and the character design shows a finger on the pulse of contemporary illustration.

There are standout works in other media, as well. Rose Couch, from Wilton High School, shows a delicate and ethereal monoprint of a giraffe – its silhouette filled with swooshing layered strokes of ink. Ben Steckel of Davenport Central represents a heavily abstract approach with his chunky, scratchy acrylic painting Bad Moon. Jacob Leyhe, also from Central, offers a haunting sepia photograph of people descending a spiral staircase with Downward Spiral.

There aren’t many chances for high-school artists to get their work seen outside of the classroom. The teens in this show have seized this opportunity with work that is – almost universally – excellent for high-school students. And the best pieces would be great for nearly any artist.

Michelle Garrison is a mixed-media artist who teaches art and design at Geneseo Middle School and J.D. Darnell High School. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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