A mere glance at Cesar Galindo's sculpture, "You're Very Mature for Your Age," evokes an uneasy sense of melancholy.
And it should.
Galindo, a Woodburn High School junior, created his artistic piece from discarded materials, recycled castoffs reworked into a work of art that speaks from the heart of his experiences and those of youth who are cast into an adult world at a precious young age.
"Mature" is among a dozen creative works from Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy students to earn Scholastic Arts 2022 recognition this year within the Oregon region.
Galindo's "Mature" was among Woodburn's Silver Key winners. Other notable WHS student works include Gold Key winners Alynn Cossio, "Agathokakological," ceramics and glass; Melanie Estrada, "dog," photography; and Destynie Morrison, "Discard," mixed media (collage).
In addition to Galindo, other WHS Silver Key recipients were Hailey Helzer, "Blurred reality," photography; Ivan Cruz, "Open your eyes," and "Altar de oracion," photography; Ramiro Lopez, "When colors collide," mixed media (collage); Elizabeth Martinez, "Feminicida," photography; Dana Saldivar, "Astorga," photography; and Jose Alonzo-Perez, untitled, photography.
The students created and submitted their works under the tutelage of WACA art teachers Catherine Johnston and Jefferson Cook.
"Mature" uses a wooden base and exhibits complimentary color tones based in shades of ecru. The subject sits with a forlorn expression -- eerily approximating the despondency within the countenance of the mask wearer in the horror film "Scream" -- holding an umbrella with a suitcase by his side.
Initially, Galindo said the piece is simply about working-class kids growing up quickly at a young age. He later elaborated.
"As a child, I spent my years without an official home; I lived in several different households," Galindo revealed. "However, the obstacles I faced with my father were especially important with regards to how I grew up. My father was an immigrant still learning English, and due to his lack of papers, he struggled to raise me on his own for years.
"I found myself working with my father, a janitor, at the age of four. We could not afford proper care while my father worked," he added. "We could not afford toys; I entertained myself by creating fantasies with little cardboard men. We could not afford the life that he so desperately wished for me to have."
Galindo points out that he doesn't lament those times. On the contrary, he views his early upbringing as a boon. He learned he could help his family, and he learned he could empathize with others who endured similar experiences.
"Because of this, I was urged to understand my role in a less fortunate household," he said. "There were a lot of things, which I have come to realize in the past years, that have resulted in several emotional barriers. My motive for this sculpture was to shatter those."
Galindo acknowledged that his past is analogous to those of "thousands of others," but his overarching goal is to show that one can be vulnerable and achieve.
"By acknowledging the struggles that marginalized communities have faced for generations, and how we have fought against them, we can allow space for vulnerability, growth, and in the end, some sort of relief," he concluded.
The thought, reflection and expression that emerges through art illustrated by Galindo is a taste of the great sea of expression within youth, and it serves as a perfect illustration of what the Alliance hopes to elicit with the scholastic arts.
Woodburn junior Destynie Morrison said she enjoys working with collages, literally and figuratively.
"One of my first pieces was a Silver Key when I was a freshman," Morrison said. "I always liked to piece something together because sometimes it's hard to piece yourself together."
So she pieced together "Discard."
Morrison said she discovered Tennessee artist Hollie Chastain's work a while back, and it appealed to her. Beginning with the back page torn out of an old library book, Morrison spent a couple of days gathering all the pieces to puzzle together "Discard," something she describes as emotionless yet with emotion as well. She added a silhouette representing a given point in time, perhaps shattered time with pieces falling -- "Maybe it's just the way life goes" is captioned at the base of it.
"People are discarded and items are discarded," Morrison mused.
Worse than discarded is murdered, and that's at the heart of the theme for "Feminicida," (feminicide), a collage shared by senior Elizebeth Martinez.
"Usually, I like to connect things that happen to me and around the world," Martinez said. "Murder is a big issue where I come from (Mexico), and I decided to make piece about it."
Martinez intended for "Feminicida" to speak to the issue of silencing women through violent means.
Another collage artist, junior Ramiro Lopez, said he spent two weeks gathering candidate materials for his "When colors collide," which speaks to the issue of mixed-race relationships.
"The process is pretty difficult for me, because it's difficult for me to put ideas in my head into my artwork," Lopez said. "So, this collage took me a long time to make."
Once Lopez gathered the pieces he liked, he sorted them out, sorted through his options and put everything together in a manner that he liked -- and his intention was clear in the final work.
Eye through a lens
Senior Ivan Cruz earned two Silver Keys with two pieces: one vivid and colorful, "Altar de oracion," and another, "Open your eyes," that reflected some semblance of Salvador Dali through photography. Both are steeped in his faith.
"This the first year I've had the photography class with Mr. (Jefferson) Cook and studying how to take photos and learning how to find the exact moment," Cruz said.
One of his Silver Key submissions -- the Dali one -- displays Cruz with a syrupy hold on a Rosary; another is of a colorful altar that shares a multitude of vivid imagery and iconic symbols within the church.
Gold Key winner Melanie Estrada said she is inspired by the photos of Ralph Meatyard, whose work is "always weird" and something the freshman WACA student finds amusing and quirky.
"In the middle of the night I grabbed my dog and put a shoe on her head," Estrada said. The moment just came to her, she recorded it and was ultimately rewarded. Moreover, it does indeed appear to parallel the tenor of a Meatyard snap.
Fellow freshman Hailey Helzer used reflection to create her piece, literally.
She said she's always enjoyed photography, and her Silver Key photo used a tree on an island with its reflection on the waters below.
Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy Scholastic Arts 2022 achievers
Alynn Cossio: Gold Key, Ceramics
Melanie Estrada: Gold Key, Photography
Destynie Morrison: Gold Key, Mixed Media
Hailey Helzer: Silver Key, Photography
Ivan Cruz: Silver Key, Photography (2)
Cesar Galindo: Silver Key, Sculpture
Ramiro Lopez: Silver Key, Mixed Media
Elizabeth Martinez: Silver Key, Mixed Media
Danna Saldivar-Astorga: Silver Key, Photography
Jose Alonzo-Perez: Silver Key, Photography (2)
View the artwork on the Woodburn Independent Facebook page.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.