As the saying goes, all art is political. And Brookings-Harbor High School junior Erika Spetzler turned a class assignment on political and social commentary into an award winning piece of art.
Her mixed-media collage "Fast Food" won best of show at the VISION 2014 art competition sponsored by the Southwest Oregon Community College Foundation. Spetzler won a $250 cash prize and a two year tuition waiver at Southwestern Oregon Community College.
Spetzler chose obesity as the theme of her project for Sheryl Tuttle's art class at Brookings-Harbor High School.
"Obesity worries me," Spetzler said. "My parents, peers, people I know are overweight. It's a huge problem."
Spetzler said she researched obesity extensively for the project and through her research she discovered just how pervasive the problem is from children to adults.
Spetzler cut out pictures of food from magazines and used them to make up the body parts of the obese person depicted in the painting. The folds of fat look like the texture of meat and other fast food items, with the person's head topped with rows of french fry hair.
To construct the couch the person sits on, Spetzler used fabric and painted over it. The couch also has yarn decorations and vaguely looks like the outline of United States. Colored pencil, crayon and marker were used to draw the American flag in the background.
"I stepped out of my comfort zone for the project and it turned out well for me," Spetzler said. "This is the first project I tried to do political or social commentary."
Tuttle said for the assignment she wanted students to take a global issue and then make it personal.
"They had to search for what they felt strongly about and then had to communicate those feelings visually," Tuttle said.
While Spetzler has always been interested in painting and drawing, ever since she took her first art class in seventh grade she has taken it more seriously. She says her parents have been incredibly supportive of her.
Spetzler says her style is changing constantly and she is trying everything. She has entered the Azalea Art Show in the past and has had the opportunity to enter other art shows.
For now Spetzler is happy she won a scholarship and wants to continue to pursue art.
The art competition took place at the Coos Art Museum and the works will be on display until April 12. The annual competition draws work from students from 10 Southern Oregon high schools and displayed 88 works of art from 73 students.
Other Brookings-Harbor students also came away from the competition with awards. Sophomore Clarice Baumbach won fourth place among 10th graders for her ceramic piece. She won at the Azalea Festival last year with the same piece. It depicts four mares standing in tall grass.
While Baumbach says ceramics is fun, she prefers working with scratchboard and painting on canvas better. She says she has enjoyed art for as long as she can remember, but didn't start taking it seriously until fifth grade.
"I'm definitely really proud of this piece," Baumbach said.
Joshuah Farley won fourth place among juniors. His painting depicts a series of ghoulish, green-faced people in a dark corridor with one person painted with hair and more realistically.
"It's a piece on conformity," Farley said. "Ever since I was little I always tried to be different and never liked following others blindly."
Farley said he deliberately used complementary colors and picked green because of the contrasting connotations of the color.
"Green has an interesting ability to be really positive or negative," Farley said. "It can show nature or life or it can be sickly, like toxic waste. I used green to show a sickly effect."
Farley said his grandmother always painted and that he wanted to take after her.
Senior Austin Werner won first place among 12th graders for his piece "Flor de Muerta." The painting depicts a sinister looking person adorned with flowers.
"I drew as a kid but it wasn't until my sophomore year that I took beginning art. I've been in art ever since."
He used dry brushing to paint the face and decided to paint it because he said it looked cool.
Tuttle said she normally makes it a requirement for students to enter the contest. She also takes students to visit the museum to see their works and those of other students, as well as visiting other art galleries along the way.
"It gives (students) the opportunity to see their work in a museum setting," Tuttle said. "It also gets them out of Brookings. They see art that opens their eyes to what else is out there."
The students, who visited the museum last week, made stops at galleries in Bandon and Port Orford. She also likes to take students to visit Ashland to see galleries there and the museum at Southern Oregon University.
"I'm not under the impression that all of my students will become artists, but art opens up doors to other fields and connections," Tuttle said.