Mattituck High School sweeps art competition

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06/22/2015 6:00 AM |
Mattituck High School students (from left) Adrianna Lawson, Sarah Pfennig and Emma Leaden were honored for their work in the New York State Art Teachers Association’s Portfolio Project contest. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Mattituck High School students (from left) Adrianna Lawson, Sarah Pfennig and Emma Leaden were honored for their work in the New York State Art Teachers Association’s Portfolio Project contest. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Art teacher Dina Rose’s students have earned top awards in art competitions during her 10-year tenure at Mattituck High School.

But this year is even more memorable for Ms. Rose since three of her current students — seniors Sarah Pfennig, Emma Leaden and Adrianna Lawson — recently swept the annual New York State Art Teachers Association’s Portfolio Project contest.

Mattituck’s division included schools across Suffolk County. For the first time in the school’s history, students took home first-, second- and third-place awards in the competition.

“I’m just very proud of them — they have such enthusiasm for the arts and are inspirational to me because they’re so passionate about it,” Ms. Rose said. “Even if they aren’t pursuing an art career, they hung in there and were a delight in class.”

Sarah won first place for an oil painting that was inspired by a photograph of a woman she found in National Geographic.

“I wanted to celebrate the beauty of a different culture,” she said. “Art teaches you to celebrate diversity, uniqueness and your strengths.

“There’s always something you can work on and improve on,” she continued. “It’s a challenge, in a sense, because you have to put your thoughts and emotions onto the paper.”

Sarah plans to major in biology and minor in art at Connecticut College; she hopes to become an ophthalmologist and work as an eye doctor. While Sarah said her future isn’t set in stone and she’d consider becoming a professional artist, she’ll always be grateful for the skills she’s learned.

“Art is always something you can turn to for relieving emotions or stress,” Sarah said. “It’s a good gift to give people.”

Emma Leaden, who won second place, plans to attend Merrimack College to study creative writing and art. She hopes to become a graphic novel writer and illustrator and have a career in television and film animation.

Her award-winning piece, “As Osiris Lays Dead,” was created using watercolor pencils, watercolors and a gold paint pen.

Emma said she became interested in Egyptian art and mythology as a child after watching the movie “The Prince of Egypt.” She still has a book she picked up a few years ago on a whim at a Michaels art store about how to draw fantasy creatures.

Her best friend, Adrianna Lawson, who she met in art class, won third place for “Black Halo,” which she made using watercolor pencils and a metallic gold pen. The piece features a halo covered in Hindu art above a woman.

Adrianna plans to become the first person in her family to attend college and will study art at the Fashion Institute of Technology in hopes of becoming an art curator.

Adrianna and Emma also took Advanced Placement Art this year and had to submit a total of 24 pieces for the class. They said they couldn’t submit their best work for the competition because those pieces had to go toward the AP course.

“Considering we couldn’t use our best pieces, it’s a good feeling because even though it isn’t our best, our artwork is still worthy of awards,” Adrianna said.

The three students first became interested in art when they were in Lee Harned’s ninth-grade art class, which they described as a “rewarding challenge.” Overall, they said the support they received from Mattituck’s art program has helped them become successful.

“Having people look at my work, critique it and help me with it has been most helpful,” Emma said.

Ms. Rose said she attributes her students’ success to their dedication and for coming into class on Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. for extra help, especially in the midst of other responsibilities.

“It’s great for the students to have their own individual outlet instead of everyone coming up with the same solution,” Ms. Rose said. “Art gives them broader, deeper thinking skills and more individual expression, which is what we want to accomplish.”

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