Two high school students have their artwork placed in the Congressional Art Competition. Jekko Syquia, a senior at St. Charles High School, earned second place. North Point High School sophomore Ashley Bowman came in fourth with an honorable mention.
Syquia has placed in the competition for the past four years, coming in first in his freshman and sophomore years and taking second place twice as an upperclassman. This year’s piece “Curiosity at Work” is an oil painting of his friend Kennedy Smith in science class looking through a microscope.
“‘Curiosity at Work’ is a beautiful painting,” Andrew Wodzianski, a College of Southern Maryland (CSM) art instructor and one of the art show’s judges, said. “It’s technically accomplished, with impressive paint handling on a relatively small canvas. It’s compositionally engaging; the top down perspective leads viewers onto the work table. And thematically, it’s provocative.”
Syquia has been an artist for most of his life. His father was always drawing, so Syquia did too. It didn’t hurt that his older brother and sister also are artists who continue to influence him. Syquia has been in Advanced Placement (AP) art classes since his sophomore year, taking AP drawing this year and is the only student in Autumn Britt’s AP 3-D class, which is more of an independent study period when Syquia can work on projects.
Britt said Syquia is the type of student who is up for trying anything. “He’s always going out of his way to learn more,” Britt said. “He’s amazing. The thing I love about Jekko is that he’s the hardest working artist I’ve ever known.”
Syquia received a fine arts scholarship to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but his interests go beyond canvas. He would like to focus on his art as well as explore science classes. Syquia counts oil painting as his current favorite medium and Kim Jung Gi and Ian McKay among his top artists at the moment.
He’s learned that creating means giving up some control. “I needed to loosen myself up,” he said. “I used to get caught up in trying to make it perfect — just do it. Find your style and just go.”
The color way
The first thing a viewer notices about Bowman’s oil pastel “The Colorful Lion” is that it’s not of a lion at all, but of a chameleon. The second thing is the colors. “Ashley’s ‘The Colorful Lion’ encapsulates many color principals in a stunning fashion,” said Wodzianski, who teaches color theory and practice at CSM each semester.
Bowman has always liked painting and drawing, and like Syquia, she keeps a sketchbook nearby. Bowman is a culinary arts student at North Point, with an eye on specializing in pastry. Being in the kitchen is another way to express herself creatively. Being a student in Terri Alo’s Art II class, Bowman has learned techniques that will take her art far. “She came in with a lot of talent,” Alo said. “But I’ve seen her grow as an artist over the year.”
The Congressional Institute holds a nationwide high school visual art competition every spring to recognize and encourage young artists. More than 650,000 high school students have participated since 1982.
In Charles County, students submit entries to Congressman Steny Hoyer’s Waldorf office, with a panel of seven judges selecting the winning entries. Works are judged on creativity, technique and skill, visual impact and inherent meaning. Winners are recognized at the district level and during an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. The winning works — “A Happy Place” by Lillian Bridges of Huntingtown High School placed first place in District 5 — are displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol.
“Art expresses so many human emotions,” Syquia said. “People can say how they feel, but to show it is different. Art is important. When you can’t fully express yourself [verbally] — it gives you freedom.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,400 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.