Young at art: Students make marks at McGuffey

Sakeena Alkateeb, "Stick Drawing."
Sakeena Alkateeb, "Stick Drawing."

On a recent Project Runway episode, Tim Gunn challenged the competing designers to construct garments using only items from a hardware store. Good thing the contestants didn't have to go up against St. Anne's-Belfield students Hannah Velie and Katelyn Coyner, whose dresses are among the standout pieces in this year's High School Art Show, currently on view at the McGuffey Art Center.

Velie's mini-dress, "Far Out," pops with swirls of blue, green, purple, and yellow paper paint swatches spiraling outward on the front and back of a yellow oilcloth shift. Velie's piece is not only fun, it's also dead-on in its retro pop-art sensibility. Meanwhile Coyner's "Lucky Strike" dress wows with a fringed bodice made of red-tipped cardboard matchsticks, a wide cummerbund of layered blue Diamond matchbooks, and a fringed skirt created with long wooden fireplace matches.

Can you find all of Velie and Coyner's components at a hardware store? Why, yes, you can–- and Project Runway judge Nia Garcia would never deem their innovative designs "boring."

Innovation and mastery of technique are the keys to several students' successful work in this year's show. Renaissance School student Sakeena Alkateeb's "Stick Drawing" is simultaneously raw and sophisticated. The quick India ink marks that Alkateeb has used to create her simple figure are free and energetic, but she has softened the composition and given it presence through varied weights of charcoal shading.

Western Albemarle student Ally Slechta also dazzles with technique in her batik, "April in Paris." Even the darkest areas of Slechta's Eiffel Tower, rising skyward behind stylized cherry branches, feature rich detail and texture. Further down the hall, another Renaissance School student, Marian Stevenson, has created a monochromatic red block print of a heron spreading its wings while standing above a fallen women that's both strange and compelling.

Among the ceramic pieces, St. Anne's-Belfield student Greg Wise's whimsical creature is especially charming. Resembling a humorous cross between a dog and an alligator, the four-legged being's body comprises parallel discs of bisque-colored clay. But it's the movement in the scaly tale and expression of the painted-on eyes that bring the piece to life.

Also noteworthy for their outstanding technique are Western Albemarle students Reid Meador for her hand-tinted photograph of thread spools, and classmate Aly Baker for her watercolor, "Mrs. Roy."

They may be young, but these local high school students combine fresh imagination with mature execution. As Tim Gunn would say, they "make it work."

The annual High School Art Show is on view through March 31 in the upstairs hall gallery at the McGuffey Art Center. 201 Second St. NE. 295-7973.