Donna High School student Kevin Rodriguez still mourns the loss of his grandmother who died in January. To honor her passing and his love for her, the DHS senior created artwork of her last day on earth and entered it into competition.
“This year’s artwork was about my grandmother who recently passed January 4,” Rodriguez said. “When that happened, I had the idea to do the piece about her. What I wanted to do was create an image of her lying in bed and her soul being reclaimed by her husband who was my grandfather. He passed away several years ago. So that was the idea that I had and I started to work on it.”
Rodriguez’ drawing and the work of 37 other DHS art students were entered in this year’s Visual Art Scholastic Event (VASE) regional contest in McAllen, which attracted participants from Brownsville to Laredo. DHS Art Department Head Juanita R. Martinez said the competition was fierce.
“Some of the artwork is exceptional,” Martinez said. “The pieces have to be original and creative art work. The students can’t use the internet or look at images that do not belong to them. The pieces must also have some sort of meaning behind them that relates to their title. The participants are then interviewed individually by a judge. The judge will ask them about the principals and elements that they used and how they incorporated into their art work.”
The DHS students’ work included string art, acrylic painting, mixed media and 3D sculptures. In all, 34 students received medals and earned superior ratings, which is the highest score a participant can get. Of those, six qualified to advance to state competition – seniors Kevin Rodriguez, Keila Gonzalez and Cristina Valdez, junior Miguel Reyes, and freshmen Javier Saucedo and Tommy Yanez.
“We are super proud,” Martinez said. “This is the most students we’ve ever had going to state. It’s a major accomplishment.”
Rodriguez’ appearance at state will be his third in three years – an achievement never matched before at DISD.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Rodriguez said. “It’s my third year in a row and I would like to believe it would have been four but I didn’t compete my freshman year. I wasn’t familiar with the contest and how it worked until I got to my sophomore year.”
The senior said this competition is more meaningful not only because this year is his last but because of what his artwork means to him. “My grandmother and I were very close,” Rodriguez said. “I saw her as another mother figure because I was grandma’s boy. It was hard after she passed but I wanted to do this piece in memory of her so I could feel relief. The fact that she’s taking me to state makes me very happy. I’m making her proud and that makes me happy.”
The V.A.S.E. competition will be held April 28-29 at James Madison High School in San Antonio. The students are seeking a Gold Seal, which is top honors. If their piece gets this recognition, their work receiving Gold Seals will be part of a travelling exhibit that will make stops at museums across the state.