SCHOLASTIC ART & WRITING AWARDS

Meet the 2020 Gold Medal Portfolio Recipients: Ariana Diaz & Shi Yan

Royivia Ferguson  //  May 29, 2020

Meet the 2020 Gold Medal Portfolio Recipients: Ariana Diaz & Shi Yan

In the 2020 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers recognized 16 high school seniors from across the country with the program’s highest national honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship. Throughout the month of May, we are highlighting and interviewing two pairs of Gold Medal Portfolio recipients a week prior to their national ceremony in June. In this Q&A, each pair of recipients were asked a few questions about their nationally recognized portfolios, craft, and future plans. And, to make it more interesting, each Gold Medal Portfolio recipient has also asked each other a question to get to know their fellow medalist.

We’re closing out this series with our two final Gold Medal Portfolio recipients: Ariana Diaz from Miami, FL, and Shi Yan from Wichita, KS.


Meet Ariana Diaz. In her portfolio, “Sinking,” Ariana uses photography to document sadness through an extremely personal exploration of the feeling of sinking that comes from the inability to identify a solution to unhappiness. 

When did you first know you were an artist?

I think I considered myself an artist once I began to make work that I was proud of. I figured it was something that I was putting all of my efforts into and from then on, I have worked really hard to make both my work and myself as an artist grow.

What was the inspiration behind your portfolio?

I honestly did not have a specific inspiration behind the submitted portfolio. I simply wanted to document myself in a constant state I find myself in, where I struggle with this idea of happiness. My intention was to be as truthful as I could with this project and demonstrate a common emotion from the perspective of someone experiencing it. What do I want someone to take away from looking at the pieces in my portfolio? I want the viewer to immediately understand the emotion I was trying to convey just by looking at the photographs and not having read the context. I think if I’m able to represent this emotion of unhappiness and feeling as though I'm sinking through composition and the colors used, the images hold somewhat of a power to them.

What’s next for you? Will you continue to create art in your future?

I will hopefully attend an art school that will help me develop my art and teach me diverse ways of navigating the shifting art world. I will definitely continue to make art in the future. Even if my plans turn out to be unsuccessful, art is something I have always found comfort in and I don't expect that to change in the years to come. 

If you could have dinner with one notable/famous artist/writer (living or dead) who would it be and what would you want to talk about with them?

If I could have dinner or even a conversation with a notable artist, it would be Boogie, the street photographer. He has been a very inspirational figure towards my work when I began photography. His work definitely leans more towards photojournalism, but holds a lot of meaning. I would want to talk about how he got to the point in his life where he is shooting the images he wants to shoot and becoming known for it, and how he became successful in that field. I would also find it intriguing to know what influences him personally.

Question from Gold Medal Portfolio recipient Shi Yan: I like how the light and shadows contrast on the person in this photograph – it creates a really strong piece! I'm wondering, did anything difficult happen, that you never thought would, while creating your portfolio?

Thankfully, when I created this portfolio nothing difficult happened that negatively affected the pieces. Being that I used myself as the model, both for personal and artistic reasons, I avoided having common issues when using someone else in your images. I appreciate your thoughts on my piece, it means a lot that you think the lighting and overall photograph is successful.

 

Meet Gold Medal Portfolio recipient Shi Yan. His nationally recognized art portfolio, “Beautiful China,” tells a stunning visual story of modern day Chinese farmers through a series of vibrant photos that capture traditional agricultural and fishing practices amidst the rise of mechanical farming.

When did you first know you were a photographer?

The first time I saw my work in a local art gallery.

What was the inspiration behind your portfolio?

I want to use my camera to record and show the old-style, Chinese agriculture to the people who are viewing my portfolio.

What do you want someone to take away from looking at the pieces in your portfolio?

I want them to be respectful of cultures and history all over the world because it's really amazing.

What’s next for you? Will you continue to take photos in your future?

I sure will keep doing photography. It's my hobby, and I will also try to learn something new to keep improving my skills.

If you could have dinner with one notable/famous artist/writer (living or dead) who would it be and what would you want to talk about with them?

It would be QianLi Zhang, a travel photographer who is really good at landscape photography. I chose him because I’ve watched so many of his videos that taught me how to take good photos. I would say he's one of my teachers in learning photography.

Question from Gold Medal Portfolio recipient Ariana Diaz: How does this specific piece of artwork differ from anything else you have made?

I would say it is pretty different because all my other works were landscape photography, but this time I am photographing a person.

If you’re interested in learning more about past and present Gold Medal Portfolio winners visit the Eyes on the Prize series on the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers blog.

Don't forget to tune in on June 4th to the 2020 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Ceremony!

 

 Cover photo: SHI YAN, Chinese Plough, Photograph; Photos in body: ARIANA DIAZ, Headshot, Photograph; ARIANA DIAZ, She was born broken, Photograph; SHI YAN, Headshot, Photograph; SHI YAN, Farmers in China, Photograph.