May 12, 2006 – While thunder and lightning lit up the sky over St. Thomas Friday afternoon, 15-year-old Sissel Holloway was thinking about sunshine as she told a small group of community members what inspired her to paint "Rays of Light," a piece which recently won first place in the 25th annual Congressional Art Competition.
"While this is really a basic still life of a watering can holding some flowers, I used bright colors to emphasize the spirit of the islands," she said, pointing to a textured painting done in acrylic. "And I also put in some tropical fruit and used a different set of complimentary colors for the rays of the sun to show how the light hits the land in different ways."
A tenth-grader at Country Day School on St. Croix, Holloway further said that she tried to use as much orange as possible in the piece and took inspiration from a local painter who showed her art class how to create texture by using the tip of a palette knife to work the paint. "I thought that technique was really amazing," she said. "And it worked really well for this picture."
As she spoke, Holloway frequently smiled as various passersby crowded in to take a closer look at the piece, which will be displayed in the galleries of the V.I. Council on the Arts for the next month. The painting will also be sent to Washington, D.C., for entry in the nationwide competition on June 28.
Holloway – who also received $150 from the council for winning the competition – will also be making the journey to the nation's capital and will meet with other Congressional art winners from across the states and territories. "I'm really excited," she said. "I've never been there before."
All pieces sent to Washington will be hung in the Capitol tunnel for one year.
"It really is a wonderful opportunity," Delegate Donna Christensen added, as she presented Holloway with a certificate honoring her accomplishment. "And it's a chance for us to show off all the artistic talent we have here in the V.I."
Christensen said that 71 pieces were entered in this year's competition, which featured work from students throughout the territory in grades nine through 12. "It certainly is great to see how many students are participating," Christensen added.
Dr. Bruce Shrallow, one of the three judges for this year's competition, agreed. "This really is something which encourages our youth to express themselves as to how they feel," he said. "And I think people should be excited to see that our children are seizing this opportunity."
Other pieces entered in the competition varied in subject matter and included paintings of the island, portraits, prints and mixed-media collages. The mediums also varied and ranged from acrylic to colored pencil.
One such pencil drawing, a mixed-subject piece by St. Croix Central High School senior Alicia Peterson, won third place.
Entitled "My World," Petersen's piece was a self-portrait, mixed in with hand-drawn images of important issues which have affected the world in the past few years. Next to a penciled etching of her face, for example, Peterson included sketches of the Twin Towers, a copy of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, a tribute to soldiers fighting in the Middle East and a pack of cards which Peterson said symbolizes the fact that "life is a gamble."
"My mother was watching the news one night, and the idea just popped into my head," Peterson explained. "But it's really relevant to today – all these things have affected us, whether in a negative or positive way."
Petersen received a $100 check from the council, along with a certificate.
Tangi James, a senior at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas won second place, along with $75 from the council, for a piece entitled "P.M.S." She was unable to attend Friday's event.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.