This year, more than 1,700 students received national recognition in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nation’s longest running scholarship and awards program for creative teens. Among them, 16 high school seniors received the program’s highest honor: the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship. Each week, we’ll highlight two of these students, one artist and one writer, to learn a little more about them, their craft, and their award-winning portfolios.
This week, we’re excited to introduce you to Alyvia Luong, from Fort Wayne, IN, and Zelda Godsey-Kellogg, from Central, SC. Alyvia’s art portfolio, The sin(ner) I cannot forgive. is a series of self-portraits and Zelda’s writing portfolio, The Splintering, is a collection of personal essays.
What was the inspiration behind your award-winning portfolio?
Alyvia: It was a form of self-healing for me. I took a traumatic, life-changing experience and relayed it into staged photographic series as a way to “tell my story.”
Zelda: The work in my portfolio spans both my junior and senior years of high school and draws mainly from past experiences, especially related to family trauma, grief, and loss. I wanted to create a narrative that tracked my own shifts in perspective over these past years. Another important part of the project was seeking out levity in dark situations while also cultivating a style that reflected the weirdness which makes me, me.
Do you have a favorite piece from your portfolio? If so, which one is it, and why is it your favorite?
Alyvia: If I had to pick a favorite, I would say it is “Am I making you uncomfortable?” because of its close resemblance to an actual painting. Moreover, I feel like it’s the strongest piece in my portfolio because it can stand alone and still tell my story the same way the others would’ve only been able to do together.
Zelda: My favorite piece is "Imprinted" because it is the most experimental piece in the portfolio. It is at once technically complicated and emotionally vulnerable. I took a lot of risks when writing it, and I feel as though those risks paid off and I was able to create something beautiful in the end.
You were able to read, or see, a piece of work from another Gold Medal recipient’s portfolio. Which piece was it and what was your impression?
Alyvia: I was able to read Zelda’s piece, “Dream, or a Byproduct of Other Horrors.” It started off really abstract—like a narrative you can’t quite follow, but you can garner an understanding of the context and the meaning behind every line. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially closer to the end when it became more and more tangible.
Zelda: I was able to see Alyvia’s photograph, “The self-healer.” I admittedly don’t know much when it comes to visual art, but the first thing I noticed here was the story being told. A person, presumably a student, has exhausted herself in pursuit of doing well in school, and has thus sacrificed their own well-being to achieve this, but is able to rehabilitate or “heal” themselves through their art. I especially appreciated the arrangement of the world around the subject—what the artist chose to fill in the background with (water bottles, hairbrush, teddy bear, then previous artworks, drawing utensils); it felt similar to how a writer might “build out” the world in their own story.
If you could have dinner with one notable artist or writer, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Alyvia: I would choose to have dinner with Edward Hopper—my favorite painter. The first piece of artwork that I could EVER vividly recount was his piece, “Nighthawks.” It lived in the background of my mind for years before I eventually found out whose hands crafted it.
Zelda: I’d love to have dinner with George Saunders. He has been a massive inspiration when it comes to my prose, and I’d like to know more about how he got his start in the writing world.
What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future?
Alyvia: I can’t give a definite answer, but I know that I will make art for the rest of my life. I feel like I still have a lot of potential that I haven’t even tapped into yet. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get into fashion design. Or creatively direct a film. Or find a totally random medium that no one does. I don’t like to box myself in.
Zelda: I plan to attend the University of Pennsylvania this fall for a double major in creative writing and film studies. I hope to be able to work across multiple mediums throughout my career and create stories which, in some small way, move an audience or otherwise alter their perception on something which they had previously never questioned.
Image: "The self-healer.," Alyvia Luong/Alliance for Young Artists & Writers; Writing: "Dream, or a Byproduct of Other Horrors," Zelda Godsey-Kellogg/Alliance for Young Artists & Writers