Gesturing toward his prize-winning painting at the Hockaday Museum of Art’s high school exhibition, Kenny Yarus paid tribute to the great painters of the Renaissance.
He spoke intensely of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, of purity and divinity. He discussed pop culture and the temptation of self-fulfillment.
But mostly he talked about painting and why he believes fine art needn’t be confusing or gloomy. His painting is called “Symbolic Fruit.”
“I try to just appreciate the world,” Yarus said. “I feel a lot of art today focuses on cynical things.”
Yarus, who had his own art show at the Museum at Central School, finishes up his senior year at Flathead High School this spring. Then he will attend the Ashland Academy of Art in Ashland, Ore. The $500 award for winning Hockaday’s “Best of Show” will come in handy as he embarks on his art career.
“I’m extremely flattered,” he said.
Hockaday’s New Artists high school art exhibition opened on April 10 and will run through May 17. It runs in conjunction with the younger children’s art show, which is on display in Hockaday’s basement. The theme of the children’s show is Going-to-the-Sun Road, allowing them to craft any interpretation of what Going-to-the-Sun means to them.
The high school show, which has no unifying theme, has brought in art of all forms from teenagers throughout Flathead County. Yarus is one of many Flathead High School students on display at the Hockaday. Glacier, Columbia Falls, and Whitefish high schools also have art hanging at the show, as does Summit Preparatory School.
Linda Engh-Grady, the show’s organizer, said the exhibition is not only a good way to encourage art in the high schools but also an opportunity for young talent to get noticed and get a taste of the formal art world.
“It’s a great stepping stone,” she said.
Each school has a variety of different works. Ranging from acrylic to Adobe Photo Workshop, coffee grounds to colored pencils and silk to metal, along with everything in between, the exhibition captures the melding of adolescent creativity, classical techniques and modern technological capabilities. Some pieces are stunning.
Whitefish’s Mikaelah Garner’s “Long Forgotten” is a picture-perfect charcoal rendering of an old Packard car. Fellow schoolmate Camille Williams’ chalk pastel depiction of a dark-skinned woman with staggering red lips and brown eyes caught the attention of most people at the opening.
Hanging on the wall is a delicately dyed silk cloth by Christina Nash of Flathead High. For sculptures, Tiffany Gross of Columbia Falls tackles one of the most difficult tasks for beginning artists – the hand – in her clay, luster-glazed piece, “Man’s Reach Extends His Grasp.”
Other works look tasty. Three pieces of sushi made from paper and acrylic greet people at the front of the exhibit. In the middle of the room there’s a 4-foot-long fudgesicle – or perhaps it’s a creamsicle – with a 2 by 4 board for its stick. It’s titled “Good Humor.”
Each piece is accompanied by an artist’s statement. Some students write that art is a hobby, while others describe it as their passion.
Yarus’s statement ends with: “Art is my life – it’s what I’m wired for. It will be my future career.”
Yarus chose Ashland’s art school, which doesn’t give out a degree, instead of a traditional art school because he said, quite simply, he just wants to learn to paint better, unencumbered by the homework load of other classes.
“It’s kind of a leap of faith because I’m not going to get a degree at all, but I think it will be worth it to learn it while I’m young,” he said.
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