Rep. Barbara Comstock’s competition at VSTC exhibits more than 180 pieces from 10th District.
By James Irwin
Alena Titova did not plan on entering the portrait into the 2015 Congressional Art Competition. The Dominion High School junior barely made the submission cutoff date.
“I didn’t actually know I’d be submitting it until my teacher told me I should,” she said Monday at the 10th District of Virginia 2015 Congressional Art Show. “It was a last-minute thing. I actually put it together—like the frame and stuff—a few days before the deadline.”
She is happy she did. Her work—a profile of her brother—won “best in show” at Monday’s exhibit, recognized from more than 180 works submitted by 10th District high school students. As the winning piece, it will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol alongside works from other congressional districts across the country.
First-Place Ribbon Winners
Best in Show
Alena Titova, Dominion H.S.
Haley Watson, Briar Woods H.S.
Isabel Paynter, HomeSchool
Tyra Krehbler, Heritage H.S.
Emilie Wang, Heritage H.S.
Abigail Lockhart, Loudoun Valley H.S.
Madeleine McCafferty, Freedom H.S.
Savannah Hargis, Heritage H.S.
Mucui Lin, Heritage, H.S.
No one was more surprised than Ms. Titova.
“I didn’t even invite my parents,” she said. “I’m thrilled. I’m also humbled. I didn’t expect that at all. I was just thrilled to be part of this.”
Organized by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), and held at the George Washington University’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus, the annual art show recognized more than 130 Northern Virginia students and featured remarks from Rep. Comstock, fine art photographer Carol Harrison and VSTC Dean Ali Eskandarian.
Art, Rep. Comstock said, provides an opportunity for constant education.
“You need to be lifelong learners, and I think art really gives you that kind of passion because there’s always going to be something new that you can express,” she said at a ceremony recognizing the student participants. “Art is all around us.”
In addition to Ms. Titova’s untitled work, winners—chosen by a panel of judges—were selected in seven categories, organized by medium. Those category winners will be displayed at Rep. Comstock’s office at the Capitol, as well as her congressional offices in Sterling and Winchester.
Haley Watson’s “Allegory of Thought” collage was one of those category winners. The Briar Woods High School senior’s piece examines how ideas and thoughts grow into action. She plans to study art next year at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I like seeing pieces from different schools and areas,” she said as she took a break from touring the gallery at Enterprise Hall. “A lot of the paintings are really impressive. It’s interesting seeing media that I’m not very good at that other people are amazing at.”
Briar Woods High School senior Haley Watson poses in front of her collage, "Allegory of Thought," which won a first-place ribbon Monday night. (Rob Stewart/GW Today)
Versatility in medium was a theme of Ms. Harrison’s keynote remarks. Her work appears in collections at the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, among others.
“There’s so much to do,” she said. “I wish I had more time because it’s a lifelong joy, really, to be an artist. And all my friends who are artists are not single focused. All of your skills and your talents work together, but you are responsible for pushing them.”
As for Ms. Titova, she said the portrait of her brother—composed from a photograph—took about 50 hours to complete. She started working with colored pencils over the summer and wanted to perfect a technique in which she mixed several non-traditional colors to create skin tone.
“If you look at it from afar it looks like a skin color,” she said. “But if you look up close, you’ll see greens, reds, purples, yellows—colors you don’t usually associate with skin tones. It’s like a rainbow.”
Her art teacher, Shannon Freeman, already was thinking about taking a trip to the Capitol once the portrait is displayed.
“That will be a fun day trip to take my kids to go see it,” said Ms. Freeman, who has taught art at Dominion for 10 years. “It’s a really great accomplishment and really exciting to see them celebrate the arts from our community.”
More than 180 works of art were displayed at GW's Virginia Science and Technology Campus. (Rob Stewart/GW Today)