Scholastic award winners: students speak with images
By GWEN OREL
Montclair High School senior Olivia Kossakowski found out she was a regional winner of a Gold Key for Design in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for students in grades 7-12 when her uncle sent her the image he had seen in the Montclair Local.
Who says print is a dying art form?
Kossakowski is one of five teenage winners from Montclair, who collected 11 awards: along with Olivia, Montclair winners and honorable mentions included Emma Demefack, an eighth-grader at Renaissance Magnet School at Rand; Montclair High School senior Sam Lasiter; Kent Place School ninth-grader Elizabeth Laurence, and Montclair High School junior Ezra Marcus-Tyler. Each Montclair Art Museum (MAM) Gold Key Award winner will display one work at the museum, 3 South Mountain Ave., through March 26.
The art from the teenagers corresponds with a national moment when teen voices and visions are in the forefront of American consciousness.
Two new teen programs launched by MAM reflect this moment: Teen Space Open Studio, a studio open every Thursday night from 7 to 9 p.m. offers an opportunity for collaboration, and a Teen Artist Talk & Workshop with artist Dan Fenelon on Wednesday, March 29, from 4 to 6 p.m. will offer teens a chance to find out about next steps in art.
“We’re inspired by teens around the country making their voices heard. We wanted to give that opportunity to teens locally here,” said Catherine Mastrangelo, MAM assistant director of marketing and communications.
Next Thursday’s Teen Space Open Studio has a focus on “March for Our Lives.”
According to a release, the studio “will focus on making posters, T-shirts, buttons and protest art just in time for the March for Our Lives on March 24.”
WORK THAT RESONATES
Kossakowski said she fell in love with design during a summer program at the Maryland
College of Art, the summer before her junior year. She worked on posters and logo and branding. “There’s more of a community to [design],” she said. “Being able to convey a message that’s raising awareness and drawing people’s attention to something that isn’t necessarily always addressed is really important. To me, that stuff is inspiring. You see design everywhere. It should be informative.”
When she heard that her piece “Anamalium” had won a gold key, she said, “I was so excited. I was thrilled. I was kind of shocked, actually.” She’d had some issues with email and wasn’t even sure her submissions had gone through.
Then she got the image her uncle sent. The museum had sent her information on an email account she doesn’t check often, she said with a laugh.
The word “anamalium” is a word she made up, related to the Latin word for animal, she said. “I took a class at F.I.T. [Fashion Institute of Technology], it was magazine design class, and I was also in AP Studio at the time, so I was making a lot of conceptual pieces. My conception was about animal rights and conserving them. There’s an awareness but a lack of action going towards it.”
Right now, she said, teenagers are using their voices, and “because we’re vocalizing our opinions, there’s more of an attention on what’s being said.” She does want to use her art to raise awareness. While art can be beautiful, it should also have a “deeper concept and meaning that can resonate with a more emotional sense.”
Mastrangelo said, “We take art very seriously. They make incredible work.”
Joyce Korotkin, the only art teacher at Renaissance at Rand Middle School, has taught several of the Scholastic Award winners, including Kossakowski, Sam Lasiter and Emma Demefack. Art is an outlet for children to express themselves, she said, and can calm down angry and aggressive children. Years ago, she headed a program called the “Young Curators Program” at MAM, in which kids would do a cultural analysis of art on display and then create their own show.
“Parents would look at their work with tears in their eyes: ‘I had no idea she felt this, no idea he felt that way,’” she said. The shows would just touch upon “what kids really know, and reflect back to us about legacy we’ve left them. It can be pretty hard to look at.”
‘I’M A LOT MORE THOUGHTFUL’
MHS junior Ezra Marcus-Tyler won two Honorable Mentions and a Silver Key for his photography.
Marcus-Tyler not only demonstrated composition, he wanted to show skill and originality.
He does something very unusual for photographers today: he uses an old film camera of his mother’s. He uses real 35mm film that has to be developed in a dark room, and then printed. He used long exposures and different camera angles not often seen in photography for his Silver Key image, “Getting a late night snack,” he said.
He was in a pitch black room, the kitchen, and “put the exposure for eight seconds, walked to my fridge, opened it, and then closed it. When I printed the photo, it showed up on the contact sheet as white. I worked on it for a long time. There’s a movement, a shadow, a hint of a person not actually there.”
Marcus-Tyler has been learning to develop and print film, as well as compose shots, at the International Center of Photography in New York City. With analog cameras, he said, “You take a photo and you wind it. You only get 36 per roll. When I’m shooting I’m a lot more thoughtful.” It took a long time to work with the midtones. “It’s way more rewarding. There’s a lot more satisfaction.”
He titled the portfolio he submitted “Things Left Behind.”
In the coming year he wants to do more photojournalism, and work on a personal project about red lining and segregation in Montclair. For photojournalism with the Center for Social Justice he’ll often use digital, and post to the Instagram page.
But for his own work he prefers film.
His project looks at the differences between the part of town where he lives in Upper Montclair, and some areas around Nishuane that are more run down. He thought, “there must be a reason for that.” He began to do research and discovered that mortgage companies denied loans in certain areas of town that were deemed as unstable. The term “red lining” comes from the different grades of stability in a mortgage: blue and green are stable, red and yellow are not, he explained.
He began by walking down to Park Street and then continuing down North Fullerton. Now that he has his driver’s license it is a bit easier to get to different parts of Montclair.
Like Kossakowski, he wants his art to have meaning. He dreams about being a photographer for National Geographic, where he could embrace different cultures, and “do something about those struggles by exposing them.” He said, “Using your experiences you can do so much. Through my photography I want to do a project on gun violence, and the #MeToo movement.”
Korotkin said, ““The fact that kids are making enormous change is absolutely wonderful. You saw this in the ’6os. There was a huge cultural movement, that was very much a youth movement. I’m thrilled. They are the conscience and integrity of tomorrow. The ‘60s mantra I lived my life by is, ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’”