Lincoln-Way H.S. art students draw attention
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org April 12, 2013 6:16PM
Kayla Wolfe holds her award-winning photo at Lincoln-Way North in Frankfort,. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 23, 2013 6:05AM
Three Lincoln-Way High School art students have joined the ranks of Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon and Truman Capote.
All have won gold or silver medals at the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition — the largest and most prestigious art contest available to students. The national contest, which drew more than 230,000 entries this year, singled out Lincoln-Way North freshman Justas Varpucanskis, Lincoln-Way North sophomore Kayla Wolfe and Lincoln-Way West senior Will Baker.
Justas won a silver medal for his oil painting, “Lamentations of an Angel.” Kayla won a gold medal for her digital photograph, “Fierce,” and Will also won a gold medal for his pastel drawing entitled, “Childhood Beast.”
According to the website www.artandwriting.org, the contest is open to teens in grades seven through 12 in 28 categories of art and writing as they compete for the chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published. Judges look for works that best exemplify originality, technical skill and the emergence of a personal voice or vision.
This is the 90th year for the competition, which begins at the regional level. Those earning gold at the regional contest — held locally at Downers Grove North High School — advance to the national competition.
Lincoln-Way students enter the contest every year, but “rarely” have a national winner, Phil Labriola, art director at East and North High Schools said. And, it’s the first time a photograph won, which is a growing — and “extremely competitive” field, he said.
Kayla — who aspires to be a fashion photographer and has her own darkroom at her Mokena home — entered the contest for the first time this year. She modestly said the photo “just happened” one day when she and her friend Heather Sedivy decided to take some photos on a hill behind her house. She photographed Heather in a bright green outfit, with her Canon Rebel T3i, standing next to the dirt hill, tossing rocks into the air.
It was a photo she did not intend for her instructor to see.
“When I saw it on the computer, I knew it was at a higher level than what I would normally see. This is something I would see in a magazine,” Labriola said, adding that he had to convince Kayla to submit the photo in the contest. “When you look at her photographs, she has a very creative eye. She may say it’s all a mistake, but she’s very modest.”
The sophomore, who will graduate early in 2014, hopes to go to New York University with a goal of making the cover of Vogue Magazine, she said.
Similarly, Justas’ artwork is not typical of a high school student, Labriola said.
“His work is just amazing in terms of technical skill,” he said.
His painting has a Renaissance quality to it, a style not often seen in high school. Justas, who has been taking art classes since age 5, likes to study the “old masters,” like Bougeaureau and Titian.
“For art, the best place to learn is from the past,” he said. He was excited about winning and created this piece specifically for this competition.
“It’s great that there will be more recognition for this kind of art. I hope people will have more respect for the old masters,” Justas said.
This contest is not his first. Two years ago, in seventh grade, he won a national art contest sponsored by Google.
He plans to study art in Europe, hopes to become an art teacher and make some money off his art work.
For Will, “Childhood Beast” is the first piece he really concentrated on, estimating that he spent 50 hours on this chalk pastel drawing of an animal combination — the head of a Harpies Eagle, a grizzly bear body with ram’s horns.
“When I found out I had won, it helped me to decide that I want to continue working in an artistic field,” he said. He plans to attend Northern Illinois University to major in either visual communications, photography, illustration, or art education.
“I feel a lot of people don’t appreciate art. I felt I was not very good when I took Art Fundamentals, but I kept trying. It’s like anything you do — if you want to do it well, you have to keep trying. More students should try art, and keep trying to develop a talent,” Will said.
“We are all so proud of Will,” said Paul Faris, art director at Lincoln-Way Central and West.
As gold medal winners, Will and Kayla will travel to the awards ceremony on May 31, which will be webcast from Carnegie Hall at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Their art work will be displayed in various exhibits over the next two years.
Kayla and Justas will be among 49 student artists from Lincoln-Way North and East High Schools who will have their work on display at the Frankfort Public Library now through April 18.