Artwork honored at Concordia
The assignment, given the first week of school last fall in Joanne Dalsimer’s Art 3-4 class at Bronxville High School, was clear: Create an 18×24 grid drawing using graphite pencil as the medium, with two light sources. Use objects that have meaning to you.
Two months later, Bronxville junior Grace Naef had created “Masquerade,” a large-scale work featuring two masks. It was 18×24. It used a grid. It was in graphite pencil, with two light sources.
One of the masks, a theatrical, full-face model, was Dalsimer’s. The other was a memento of Naef’s trip to Venice, Italy, last summer.
“I thought immediately of including the masks because of their intricate values, and different varieties of textures, with velvet, the shiny gold, the pearls,” says Naef. “It was perfect for a value study.”
“Masquerade” earned an A-plus.
This month, that A-plus earned another plus, as “Masquerade” was one of 10 works to earn an award of excellence at the Seventh Annual Regional High School StArt Exhibition at Concordia College in Bronxville. (See a gallery of other StArt works here.)
Thirty schools from Rockland, Westchester, Fairfield and the Bronx sent three works each — ranging from collage to acrylics to pencil to ceramics to scratch art — to be viewed by seven judges at OSilas Gallery on the Concordia campus, where the StArt Exhibition runs through Jan. 27.
Naef’s “Masquerade” won kudos for its technique, but also for an artistic voice, says Shanley Hanlon, OSilas Gallery manager and one of the judges.
“Technically, the lights and the darks are fabulous, but the overall compostion of the piece is so unique,” Hanlon says. “It’s not just a still life that’s been set up. She’s found differents masks and put them in such a way that none of them is fully showing. That’s something interesting. I’m not sure if that was part of the project she was given or if that’s her take on it, but it has her own creativity.”
Hanlon also likes that parts of the work show the hand of the artist.
“You can see her sketch marks,” Hanlon says. “It’s not all smoothed out. You can see the work that went into the piece.”
What went into the piece is the 16-year-old artist’s process.
After composing her work by placing the masks on two boxes covered in a cloth, she set the lights on either side. She then tinkered with it, tweaking the ribbon that snakes through the piece, moving masks so they’d catch and reflect the light just so. When she was satisfied, she took a photo of the composition.
“I made sure I really liked my photo,” she says, “because with every piece I do, if I don’t like the photo I’m not as determined to work on it and finish it. I was really engaged with this and really wanted to work on it and see the final outcome.”
The final outcome is a large pencil drawing with the darkest blacks and the lightest whites, and dozens of shades of gray in between. The whites, she says, were achieved with an electric eraser, a tool that scrubs the paper and sounds a lot like a dentist’s drill.
“I love graphite pencil,” she says. “I did a graphite pencil self-portrait last year and I really liked it.”
The graphite pencils most people use are No. 2, but the pencils Naef chose ranged from No. 4 for the dark blacks to 2H for the lights.
The gridding strategy meant drawing a grid of inch-square blocks over the photo and then beginning the painstaking work of rendering each of the blocks and refining the connections between the blocks.
“I liked working that way better, for some reason, going details by details,” Naef says. “I think I got to see it come into action much faster. It made me much more excited while I was working on it, to see it take shape.”
While the grid established a rigid framework for constructing the drawing to scale, Naef says she didn’t work left-to-right or top-to-bottom.
“I kind of went diagonally and then worked around the face,” she says, adding: “I was so nervous about doing the face, but it turned out better than I thought it would.”
Seeing her completed work alongside other award-winning works in a college art gallery was a revelation.
“I’m so fortunate to be in this show with my peers,” she says. “I was so surprised when they announced that I won at the opening reception. After that, people started looking at it more and it was being appreciated. I really liked that.”
Hanlon, who has been involved with StArt from the start, says the exhibition fuels a valuable exploration of art.
“It’s great when we bring all the students in here and they go around and they look around the room and say ‘That’s really neat, How did they do that? I want to try that.’ It’s like a big melting pot of ideas.”
What: Seventh Annual OSilas Gallery Regional High School StArt Exhibition, featuring 90 works from 30 high schools in Westchester, Rockland, Fairfield counties and the Bronx.
When: Through Jan. 27. Noon to 5 p.m., Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays; Noon to 7 p.m., Thursdays; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays.
Where: OSilas Gallery at Concordia College, 171 White Plains Road, Bronxville. The gallery is in the Krenz Academic Center on the second level of Scheele Memorial Library. Call: 914-395-4520.
Note: Participating schools include: Archbishop Stepinac; Ardsley; Briarcliff; Bronxville; Clarkstown North; Convent of the Sacred Heart (Greenwich); Eastchester; Edgemont; Harrison; Iona Prep; John Jay; Keio Academy; Lincoln in Yonkers; Mandela in Mount Vernon; Ossining; Pelham; Pleasantville; Port Chester; Riverside in Yonkers; Sacred Heart in Yonkers; Scarsdale; School of the Holy Child in Rye; St. Catherine Academy (Bronx); Ursuline School in New Rochelle; Tuckahoe; Valhalla; Walter Panas in Cortlandt Manor; Westlake in Thornwood and Yonkers Middle High School.
Photo by Matthew E. Brown/The Journal News: Bronxville High School junior Grace Naef, 16, with her award-winning drawing, “Masquerade,” in the OSilas Gallery at Concordia College in Bronxville.