RAHS art among the best at St. Paul art exhibition

“Eagle” by Cassie Etienne

“Octopus” by Laura Wilfer

“Hedi” by Annalise Slattery

Roseville Area High School (RAHS) was well represented at this year’s Les Farrington Best 100 Juried Art Exhibition. Twelve RAHS students were selected to showcase their art at the AZ Gallery in lowertown St. Paul from March 8 to March 29.

Those students were: Roxanne Pierson and Corrina Pierson, print media; Trae Story, ceramics; Garrett Gustafson, wood bowl; Saurar Kattel and Kyung Ju Chung, photography; Laura Wilfer and Annalise Slattery, painting and drawing; Cassandra Etienne, drawing, Marcy Monesi, Grace Walsh, and Daniel Busch, painting.

Roxanne Pierson earned a print merit award for outstanding achievement for her piece “Loki,” and Annalise Slattery earned the President’s Award for her painting ”Divided,” which was selected as an exhibit favorite by St. Paul Jaycees’ President Elyssa Weber.

This is the 56th year that the St. Paul Jaycees’ have sponsored the art exhibit, which is open to high school student artists from St. Paul and surrounding areas.

Students submit pieces of art in several media categories -- painting, drawing, photography, prints, sculpture, textiles, graphic arts and more –- which are judged and winnowed down to 100 top pieces by a group of local artists known as jurors.

This year there were 17 metro schools that participated in the event with a total of over 1,500 submitted pieces, according to RAHS art teacher Todd Clercx.

One of his students, who had two pieces selected among the top 100 works displayed at the AZ Gallery, is 17-year-old senior Laura Wilfer. Wilfer had an oil pastel portrait of a woman titled ”Closeup” and an acrylic painting titled “Octopus” on display at the gallery.

The young artist describes “Octopus” as a depiction of the stress she felt at the beginning of the academic year. The painting shows a man being strangled by an octopus-- its tentacles protruding from the man’s eyes and mouth.

“There was a lot of stress in my life when I did this painting,” Wilfer says while ambling back and forth across a set of tables in a RAHS art room. “I felt like I was being strangled.”

Wilfer says she mostly likes working with oil pastels and acrylic paints to create works of art that capture emotion and extreme movement. “I like drawing faces,” she adds.

“She has the ability to capture emotion very well, whether it be in faces or in negative space,” Clercx says of his student. “That’s something that’s hard for young artists to do.”

Wilfer says when she has an idea for an art piece, it is often sudden and she rarely mulls over the idea before putting something down on a canvas.

“You’ve got to dive right into it, get it down and not hold back. It’s like imagination vomit,” she quips.

Wilfer says it was cool to see her work on display in a different light at the AZ Gallery.

“For many young artists this is the first time their work is seen by the public in a gallery setting,” Best 100 Curator Brendan Rohde says.

Rohde is a 2004 RAHS graduate and a former student of Clercx.

This is the second year Rohde has curated the exhibition at the AZ Gallery, which is a cooperative gallery where he is a member. He says the most challenging aspect of setting up the show is placing all of the diverse pieces together in a way that creates balance.

There are dozens of photographs, ceramics, sculptures and canvases of varying size that have to be organized and displayed in the lower town gallery.

“It’s interesting to hang these pieces and make a cohesive show with such diverse pieces,” Rohde says. “Usually an art show will have works of art centered around a theme. With this show there is such a large variety.”

He says this year’s showing was great and attracted hundreds of people over the three weeks of the exhibition.

“As an artist it inspired me to up my game. There were some really great pieces of art on display,” Rohde says.

Clercx knows what it is like to be in Best 100. He took first place for his portfolio of five paintings in the 1984 exhibition.

He believes art classes are essential to a well-rounded education. He says art is not only about aesthetics, but also about problem solving.

“It’s an excellent way for students to explore, take chances in a safe and supportive environment and to learn that there is more than one right answer, more than one way of accomplishing something,” Clercx says.

RAHS students have enjoyed other success in the arts this year. Several artists from the high school had their works on display at the Minnesota State High School League Visual Arts Competition at the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley in March as well.

Clercx says the art programs at RAHS would not exist without good administration support. He says RAHS Principal Jenny Loeck sees the value in a comprehensive education for students and is an advocate for the arts. Additionally, he says equal credit should be shared with ceramics instructor Paul Moeller and printmaking, painting and sculpture instructor Laura Corcoran, who Clercx says are key players in the art department with students who got their work into the Best 100 Art Show as well.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

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