Rising Stars Exhibition shines on Redwood students

Sarah Young

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Every year, 150 Marin County high school artists submit their work to judges in the Rising Stars Exhibition, a blindly-judged competition that aims to showcase works from Marin County high schoolers. The event is open to works such as drawings, paintings, sculptures, photography, mixed media and digital art. Students, family members and the general public can go see the exhibition until March 29 in San Rafael at the YIA Gallery on C Street. This is the 28th year the contest has taken place, and according to AP Art teacher, Lauren Bartone, Redwood art students have participated in this contest for over a decade. It features students from 17 high schools in Marin, and this year, senior Lauren Smart won the award for Best Drawing and senior Nick Cook won the Best Mixed Media award.

Smart has pursued drawing since the sixth grade. Her enthusiasm for art has been influenced by her mother, who loves art as well. High school reinforced Smart’s dedication for making art and she enjoys doing something creative every day in her AP Art class.

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Smart
Staring into the audience, Smart’s depiction of her grandfather is filled with detail.

“Sophomore year is when I started enjoying [art] a lot and doing it as a break from homework; [art is] something I look forward to doing… Without counting this year [and AP art], I would spend two or three hours a week on [drawing] in my car waiting for school to start,” Smart said.

For the exhibition, Smart based her drawing off of inspiration from her grandfather, as her work is titled “The Evolution of Life.”

“I enjoy doing old people because everyone has always told me that pretty girls are too easy to draw and there’s not much meaning. I like doing people with life and stories and wrinkles and dots and differences,” Smart said.

Her piece includes a large portrait of her grandfather surrounded by sketches of his old driver’s licenses from as old as the 1960s. The piece was drawn in charcoal and graphite, which are Smart’s primary media, as she prefers to work in black and white. After high school, Smart plans on minoring in art in college and continuing to create art in her spare time.

Cook, another AP Art student, won the Best Mixed Media in the exhibition for his piece titled, “The Human Circus.” Cook has loved art since the beginning of high school, but it became his primary focus junior year.

“I like really anything that mixes colors or has color and is utilizing it,” Cook said.

Cook’s piece incorporates bright reds and yellows and has a symbolic meaning that translates to his own life.

“The inspiration for the piece was self-expression and being comfortable with myself. I feel like a lot of people aren’t comfortable with themselves. The piece was called ‘Human Circus’ because I felt like an elephant in the room when I come to school just based off the way I dress or the way I carry myself,” Cook said. “I feel like everybody has it within themselves to do the thing that’s different, but there’s a social barrier that people have…  and they just feel comfortable looking the same and acting the same as everybody else.”

Photo Courtesy of Nick Cook
Full of color, Cook’s art reflects his self expression.

Cook has applied to art schools for college and plans to create art for the rest of his life. Bartone has taught both Cook and Smart in their AP Art classes and admires the way they present themselves as people and artists.

“They’re both very understated and reserved; they don’t have loud personalities, but their work is really strong and their voice comes through really clearly in their images and the way they create and interact with the world,” Bartone said.

The hardest part about the exhibition, according to Bartone, was picking the students who could be in the show, as she was only allowed to submit the work of eight students.

“I hated having to choose because honestly my AP Art class is filled with students who all deserve opportunities and have incredible work in their own ways,” Bartone said. “I chose kids that I knew it would really matter to them that they were in the show and I chose kids that I felt had been working hard for long enough that they deserved that kind of recognition.”

Bartone’s favorite part about the annual exhibition, other than giving her students the opportunity to get recognition for their work, is the exposure to other art students in Marin.

“It’s exciting for a kid who’s been working on art their whole high school career, maybe longer… to go see a room filled with works by other kids like them that maybe they forget exist,” Bartone said. “The kids who go to the show are wandering around and looking at all this other work with their eyes wide open. That’s the most important part.”