Woodburn High School senior Zoey Benavidez experiences internal conflict consistent with most youth her age, but it manifests itself beyond the typical parameters of teen angst.
Zoey parlays her inner trials into art, which she illustrated this school year with her painting titled "Head 2 Head."
Head 2 Head was among several works from Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy students recognized as "Gold Keys" in the 2021 Oregon Scholastic Art Awards. WACA schoolmates Fernanda Dominquez (comic art) and Lesly Arroyo (painting) joined Benavidez in achieving Gold Key recognition.
The trio also submitted works that received Silver Keys, joined by Alondra Flores (photography), Yesenia Lopez (drawing and illustration, mixed media), Brenda Martinez (photography, fashion), Emily Perez (photography), Juan Ponce Lara (art portfolio, digital art), Jolette Preciado (drawing and illustration), Virginia Salvador (mixed media), Kayley Thompson (photography, drawing and illustration) and Guadalupe Tovar (photography).
Zoey was also awarded Gold Key and Silver Key recognition for submitted works in 2020. She described Head 2 Head as a juxtaposition to one of those pieces.
"This piece is kind of like a part two of my Silver Key I got last year, 'Arguing with Myself.' I've always had this constant battle with myself in my mind," she explained. "It gets a little overwhelming with my conscience, especially during quarantine where we will all get a little crazy sometimes.
"I feel like it's just a battle that never stops. I have to decide which side is right versus wrong and this can vary with anything."
At home, Zoey has an opportunity to reflect and bounce peer-angled ideas around as she is the second born among triplets, along with siblings Mya and Jordan.
"I'm a triplet and we all are stereotyped with our own personalities; the 'mean one,' the 'nice one' and the 'middle one' — where you can fit in both categories," Zoey said.
"I thought it would be great to bring my siblings into my art since they're a big part of my life, and also ... I have a big advantage I don't have to learn how to use Photoshop," she added with a chuckle. "Also, they represent my situation very well. When we argue, I feel like I'm arguing with myself."
WACA senior Juan Ponce Lara submitted an entire portfolio that received a Silver Key. He also used a unique juxtaposition to come up with his "Childhood Tragedies" work.
Juan thumbed through National Geographic magazines from the 1950s and 1960s to gather collage material. The people in those magazines appeared to him as very happy and perfectly suited to the lives portrayed in the publication.
"I started to compare my life to theirs and I realized my life kinda sucked," Juan reflected. "I used the juxtaposition of these seemingly perfect people and some of my 'Childhood Tragedies' to sort of soften the blow and bring light to some of the events that I have faced throughout my childhood."
Juan said he was bullied throughout his childhood. Both his parents worked, so he rarely saw them. Then they divorced. He had to move away from his childhood friends. He was expected to remain stoic through it all — "put and shut up" — which he felt exacted a tremendous mental toll.
"I dealt with these problems with humor every chance I got. I would try to make my friends laugh or at least smile," he said.
As handy as humor was, so was art.
"I wanted to sort of tackle these themes and how I dealt with things like my parents' divorce in my artwork but add some humor to lighten the mood," Juan added. "In the end I was inspired and made art about my childhood tragedies. I didn't think I would win anything but doing so felt good; I felt as though my voice was being heard for the first time in a while."
The artistic outlet is deeply important to many teens who express themselves through it, as Fernanda Dominguez would attest.
"This piece was mainly a way for me to cope and personify the struggles that I've been dealing with," Fernanda said, referencing her Gold Key earning "Panic Attack" work. "An incident happened at school that caused me to have my first ever panic attack. Along with other stuff that I've been dealing with, it all pushed me over the edge with how much anxiety and stress that I had.
"But while working on this piece I was able to process the situation and my emotions which helped me calm down during the next couple of days."
COVID-19 safety precautions and distance learning curricula have presented challenges all across the educational spectrum. In the arts, it has also inspired some creativity and the development of different skills.
Earlier this year, WACA teachers Caleb Thurston (drama) and Nadia Maksimov (music) created a short film and edited, Zoom-enabled band and choir concerts. Caleb discovered that he had to sharpen his film-editing skills, while Nadia shifted from conducting in-person to online tutorial and sound mixing.
WACA visual arts teacher Catherine Johnstone also encountered some weighty challenges.
"I have to say that this year has certainly been challenging," Catherine related. "Getting students to go through the process of submitting their artwork was difficult through Zoom. It is harder to motivate students online.
"The other challenge this year has been art supplies. My students are using the bare minimum since they have had to buy the supplies themselves," she added.
Given the educational environment and obstacles therein, Woodburn students fared fairly well in the Scholastic Art Awards.
"All told, I am very happy with the results this year," Catherine said. "Many students are learning to rise to the challenges they face, and that includes using the materials they have creatively or working digitally for the first time."
The following WACA art students recently received Scholastic Art Awards. All together they won four Gold Keys, 31 Silver Keys and 107 Honorable Mentions in a variety of media, including a Silver Key Art Portfolio and two Honorable Mention Art Portfolios.
Lesly Arroyo – Painting (2)
Zoey Benavidez – Painting
Fernandez Dominguez – Comic Art
Lesly Arroyo – Painting (2)
Zoey Benavidez – Drawing & Illustration (3), Painting (2)
Fernanda Dominguez – Digital Art (5), Comic Art
Alondra Flores – Photography (2)
Yesenia Lopez – Drawing & Illustration, Mixed Media
Brenda Martinez – Photography, Fashion
Emily Perez – Photography (3)
Juan Ponce Lara – Art Portfolio, Digital Art
Jolette Preciado – Drawing & Illustration
Virginia Salvador – Mixed Media
Kayley Thompson – Photography, Drawing & Illustration
Guadalupe Tovar – Photography (3)
Joanna Arredondo – Photography (3)
Lesly Arroyo – Painting (6), Drawing & Illustration (2)
Zoey Benavidez – Drawing & Illustration (2), Painting (10), Mixed Media (4), Digital Art
Haley Chaides – Photography
Fay Delgado – Painting
Spencer Destin – Art Portfolio, Digital Art (2), Drawing & Illustration
Fernanda Dominguez – Digital Art (10), Drawing & Illustration
Alondra Flores – Photography (3)
Jesse Gomez – Photography
Anelis Guape Anaya – Painting
Dallon Jensen – Drawing & Illustration (3)
Kayden Kent – Digital Art
Jennifer Lopez – Art Portfolio
Yesenia Lopez – Painting (2), Drawing & Illustration (2)
Adrian Martinez – Photography
Brenda Martinez – Photography (5), Painting (2), Fashion
Elizabeth Martinez – Photography
Destynie Morrison – Painting
Emily Perez – Photography (2)
Juan Ponce Lara – Mixed Media (4), Digital Art
Karla Rael – Photography (2), Drawing & Illustration
Virginia Salvador – Photography (2), Drawing & Illustration
Emily Thompson – Photography
Guadalupe Tovar – Photography (2)
Adaliah Arreola – Photography (2)
Kiarah Bryant – Photography
Lukas Locher – Photography
Lizbet Obregon – Photography
Omar Sandoval – Photography (2)
Vanessa Vasquez – Photography (2)
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