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From Basic Art class to Blue Line Gallery

Six high schoolers share an exhibit
By: Lien Hoang, The Press Tribune
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The comic strip pop art of Roy Lichtenstein. The shadowy landscapes of Thomas Moran. The anonymously colorful graffiti people of Keith Haring. Local painters have brought these influences to the latest exhibit inside a small, glass-enclosed room at the Blue Line Gallery. Their 18 acrylic images explore everything from freedom to absurdity, from frustration to uncertainty. And did we mention these are high school students? The five seniors and one junior have been working under the guidance of Myron Stephens, a pop surrealist whose work is shown as far away as Sweden and who teaches at Granite Bay High School. Although Stephens has long required his students to display their work in public, and although Blue Line has long sought scholastic art, this showcase marks something of a first. It straddles the line between the more costly professional work of local artists and the student work that appears regularly at Blue Line’s Eli and Edith Broad Children’s Gallery. Unlike previous students, these six had to enter an artist registry and have their work selected by development director Julie Hirota. “It’s really surprising that she would want to pick our art,” says senior Danielle Johnson, whose painting “Who Moved My Cheese?” is based on Spencer Johnson’s book and features a nearly bodyless mouth. “I feel professional.” Similarly, senior Alexa Wolf says of seeing her work beside working artists, “It’s exciting but makes me want to work harder.” Her three paintings center on women with oblique gazes, including one inspired by Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dots. Wolf and Stephens’ other disciples have hung the fruits of their labor at other venues – fairs, coffee shops, galleries. But this exhibit is the first dedicated to the Granite Bay High School painters. Stephens, who also requires the students build their own websites, admits he is a strict instructor known to throw around the word “horrible” in his critiques. Declaring himself void of natural talent, Stephens had to learn everything he knows – which is why he thinks anyone can be taught. And if there’s a message in the Blue Line show, which runs through Jan. 8, it’s that work pays off. “It’s like crossing the finish-line for these guys,” he says. “It brings validity to the students and their artwork.” From his teacher, junior Andrew Streter has grown from a novice who saturates his colors without technique, to a painter who pushes himself and no longer settles for average. His dreary landscapes look like a scene from a Tim Burton film, but he calls them “relatable.” “Each person can interpret their own way and find a story,” Streter says. Senior Becky Fox, too, is partial to natural scenes – taken from the aforementioned Moran – but gives them the twist of the utterly unnatural. In “The Super-Sniffer 12000,” a robot stops to smell the flowers. At $600, the painting is the priciest of the 18. “I like the contrast between the natural elements and the industrial robots,” Fox says. Hirota says she hopes presenting Fox’s and her peers’ work will feed into a larger goal of keeping the arts in education. But their skill transcends the classroom. “Their ability to execute technique is amazing,” Hirota says. “These are very disciplined artists.” Lien Hoang can be reached at lienh@goldcountrymedia.com.