Truly a work of art

Upper school hosts on-campus End of Year Art Show to display students’ work from the past year


Sabrina Zhu

Vidya Jeyendran (12) points at a piece of artwork to Fonda Hu (12) as they walk through the Nichols Atrium. All the exhibitions belonging to the End of Year Art Show are being exhibited across campus from May 7 to May 28.

by Aastha Mangla and Sabrina Zhu

Two students step into the Nichols Atrium, looking at walls filled with patterns and colors. They slowly walk through the hallways and observe the black and white photographs, complex graphic designs and vibrant oil paintings. Every once in a while, they stop to talk about the talent of their classmates or to point out some favorites among the hundreds of pieces.

The upper school End of Year Art Show, previously deemed the “Artstravaganza,” kicked off on Friday, May 7, with a wide display of visual, sculpture and digital pieces. Although the End of Year Art Show did not happen last year due to the emergence of the pandemic, the upper school art community shared an excitement to hold the exhibits in 2021. These pieces, which were created at home during the pandemic, were then sent to campus to be exhibited similar to past Artstravaganza exhibitions. The artwork will be displayed in Nichols, Shah and the Rothschild Performing Arts Center (RPAC) until May 28 for students and faculty members to observe. 

“Being able to talk to people, just the experience of sharing your work with the community, it’s not the same [online],” Pilar Aguero-Esparza, upper school visual arts teacher, said. “One of the things that has been super exciting personally is when the works started to come in.”

Since visual arts includes many hands-on projects, both students and teachers found the transition to the virtual environment difficult. Although the students had materials, which they picked up from campus, Aguero-Esparza notes that instruction still remained challenging. Recently, however, the return to in-person classes makes it easier.

“[Even though] you can see them on the screen in Zoom, I think it’s more fun to work in person because you can see everyone else working around you, ” Study of Visual Arts student Claire Luo (9) said.

We were excited to be able to share our student work with the community and hopefully more people as we come more and more on campus. You could actually see and observe all the wonderful work that was done this year, despite a pandemic.”

— Upper school visual arts teacher Pilar Aguero-Esparza

After finishing pieces at home, students then sent them to the art classrooms from April 5 to April 12. Aguero-Esparza was pleased to note that the works appeared vastly different from the pictures she saw during Zoom learning and they could not compare to the texture and vibrant colors that came alive when seeing them face-to-face.

“It’s just beautiful to see that engagement and the commitment to [learning online],” Aguero-Esparza said. “We were excited to be able to share our student work with the community and hopefully more people as we come more and more on campus. You could actually see and observe all the wonderful work that was done this year, despite a pandemic.”

In both Study of Visual Arts and Advanced Painting, many students enjoyed the Cubism assignment, where students referenced a picture of furniture, such as vases and flowers, and interpreted it in a cubist style. The result was a shattered-glass style of painting that varied depending on the artists’ interpretation of Cubism. 

“Drawing [on the canvas] with charcoal first is pretty fun,” Advanced Painting student Kurtis Tong (10) said. “When I’m painting white on the canvas, since there’s already charcoal, [the colors] mix, so it’s not a clean white but a gray. I had to paint on it over and over again until I got white, but it made the lines clean.” 

Similarly, projects also varied in photography classes, as students were instructed to take photos around their homes rather than on the upper school campus as normally instructed. Then, they would edit their photos accordingly under upper school digital art and photography teacher Joshua Martinez’s instruction and share them with each other.

“In photography, I got to see places that meant a lot to people,” photography student Leah Anderson (12) said. “One of the kids in my class took different types of pictures of her cat. They felt like different pieces, but she focused on what meant most to her. It was kind of cool because it was a chance to see into people’s lives and see who they really are and what they love.”

Alongside the End of Year Art Show, seniors in the Honors Directed Portfolio class are also currently showcasing their individual year-long work for one week per student in either the Shah building or the upstairs area of the Rothschild Performing Arts Center. Honors Directed Portfolio student Arya Tandon (12) created a piece involving mirrors and projections, which was designed to address themes like false realities, social media and body image.

Under the Shah building staircase, Lisa Barooah (12) discusses Honors Directed Portfolio student Ashley Gauba’s (12) art exhibition to Farah Hosseini (12) as Arohee Bhoja (12) looks on. Alysa Suleiman

“Essentially, the viewer walks in and there are two projections that are projected onto a wall, and there is a mirror hanging,” Arya said. “You’ll stand on the ‘x’ which is in front of the projectors and look at yourself in the mirror, and what you would see is their faces have both projections on them, and they can see themselves with the layering of the false images I put up.”

Like the other art students, the seniors have been working on their exhibitions at home. For many, it was difficult to visualize the set-up and to communicate their ideas well with teachers.

“I couldn’t really visualize how it would be set up in the room, which was very difficult for me going through the whole year,” Arya said. “But actually putting it up in a day and seeing everyone was definitely very relieving and validating. In the end, I was very proud of how it turned out.”