2 Yonkers High seniors channel emotions into art
Stephanie Osorio, left, and Ywlianna Dominquez are art students at Yonkers Middle High School. Photo by Tania Savayan/The Journal News.
Ywlianna Dominquez, 17, and Stephanie Osorio, 16, have already experienced more loss and pain than many of their classmates at Yonkers Middle High School.
Dominquez lost her father to cancer last year. Osario was diagnosed with a heart condition and learned it will not be safe for her to bear children.
It’s a lot for anyone to handle, but seniors Dominquez and Osorio have outlets to focus their hands and minds. Both are accomplished artists, in Kim Cortese’s International Baccalaureate Art class at the high school.
Both will spend this academic year looking at the world and creating art on a theme: Osorio’s is “Moral Values”; Dominquez’s is “The Revealing Nature of Grief.”
It’s heavy stuff, to be sure, but if their sketchbooks and portfolios are any indication, this year is going to produce some pretty spell-binding art. (See samples from their portfolios at http://pinterest.com/peterdkramer/high-school-arts/)
Dominquez: Channeling loss into art
Ywlianna Dominquez calls her workbook, in which she saves scraps of ideas and bits of technique, “my little bit of madness.”
But there is plenty of method in that madness. It is packed with references to the L.A.-based Japanese-American artist Audrey Kawasaki, whose stylized paintings of women on wood inspire the 17-year-old Yonkers High School senior.
“She’s really mysterious,” Dominquez says of Kawasaki. “You know how some people have a lot of information? She just lets her art speak for her. She’s personal, but you don’t know exactly what’s going on with her.”
What’s going on with Dominquez is focus. It’s a word she uses repeatedly. Those around her know that when she’s focusing on her art, it’s best to keep their distance.
“If I’m doing something, people don’t disturb me,” she says with a shy smile. “Sometimes I get a little nasty, not mean, but if you need something I’ll just give it to you or throw it at you to get you out of my face so I can keep working.”
Dominquez’s artistic fire is intense but she is so soft-spoken at times that you have to lean in to hear her. Then, flipping through her portfolio, her voice rises and she can’t seem to talk fast enough, discussing her inspiration for this piece, the technique in that one, why she chose to make the fall sky purple. The art brings her out. (That is her Autumn purple sky, below.)
“People do what’s expected,” she says. “ I find it embarrassing when I have something similar to someone else’s, even though it’s still mine.”
It makes her take more chances.
Art teacher Kim Cortese says Dominquez’s painstaking approach to learning techniques can ramp up the pressure on the artist.
“She’ll take five weeks to perfect her sample, to learn how to do something and get comfortable and then be up against a deadline and then she’ll produce,” Cortese says, with a mix of admonishment and admiration.
Dominquez’s work has been recognized outside the classroom. A colorful mermaid she painted in pointillist style was chosen to hang in Yonkers Waterfront Library in an exhibit of school art. (“I love water,” she says. “I’m a Pisces.”)
For this school year, Dominquez’s focus will be creating art on the theme “The Revealing Nature of Bereavement.”
“I went back and forth over whether it should be ‘revealing’ or ‘concealing,’ but to me they’re kind of the same, because if you’re hiding something, you’re also revealing it by keeping it hidden,” she says. One is the absence of the other.
“This is personal,” she says. “I lost someone. I lost my dad.”
“I wanted to focus on being desolate, being left alone, but you’re not really alone because you’re left with a lot of feelings — some positive, some negative, some completely chaotic. And that’s what I want to focus on: its beauty and how powerful it is and how it can destroy you and test you. ”
Osorio: Rx for artistic output
In the spring, Stephanie Osorio had anchors on her mind.
Since the 16-year-old Yonkers High School student is an artist, anchors found their way into her sketchbook, a journal that goes wherever she goes.
“I don’t know what it means,” she wrote on a page dominated by an anchor drawn in pencil (show below). “Anchors have always, to me, just been something you find on a boat.”
Then, since she is an artist, she began to research. She learned that “anchor” comes from the Greek “ankura” resembling “en kurio” or “in the Lord.” The anchor, she discovered, was a key Christian symbol during the Roman persecution. Anchors, she learned, symbolized hope.
Hope was just what Osorio needed. She had had a rough year.
“I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy last September,” she says. “My heart is enlarged and it was weakened, so I was in the hospital for almost a week. When I got back to school, they wouldn’t let me walk fast and I had to go late to every class. I had a note, but still I was late for every class. I tried not to let it affect me, but it’s so much to take on and now I take all these medications.”
Her art teacher, Kim Cortese told her to use her sketchbook as a diary, a release valve for her emotions and thoughts.
“In the beginning, there are sadder times,” Osorio says. “Going into October, I was still getting used to the situation.”
There she is, in her sketchbook, behind bars.
Then came a bigger blow. Doctors told her that her medications could cause birth defects.
“Not that I’m thinking about that now, but I’ll always have to be on this medication and they haven’t found the cause of the heart problem I have,” she says. “This might be for the rest of my life. I’m dying to have kids, I love kids, but to learn that I can’t have kids, when I was 15, I felt really trapped.”
In a painted self-portrait, amid a flurry of color and flakes, Osorio’s eyes are X’d out, her mouth scribbled over and she is reaching out to the viewer.
“It was another depressing time,” she explains. “I felt like I didn’t have a say in anything, like I was being told ‘You have to do this, this and this.’ ”
By May, she had moved on to anchors and found hope in them.
Having learned to make her art mirror her life, Osorio begins her senior year with an assignment in her International Baccalaureate Art class: to create art that addresses her chosen theme of “Moral Values.”
“I’m Catholic and this year I was confirmed,” she says. “I learned a lot having to do with my religion. And even though that’s my moral values, I also want to learn about other ways that people think. I believe in karma, that if you do something bad, it’s going to come back to you, but if you do something good it’s going to pay off in the end. Or the whole yin and yang, how in every bad there is good and in every good there is going to be a little bad.”
The process of making art, its demand for her undivided attention, has been helpful, she says.
“Doing something slowly and trying to relax myself really helps me relieve stress.”
Just as with anchors, Osorio says, hope is unseen from the surface.
“You’re basing your safety on it, but you don’t know where it is,” she says. “You don’t know if it’s going to hold, but you have to depend on that anchor.”