NHHS Students at the CSUN Showcase

Finding talent within students


North Hollywood students share their experiences when participating in the Cal-State University Northridge art showcase. 

On January 9 through January 20, in CSUN’s art center,  CSUN held its 26th Annual High School Invitational to display the talent within high schools, including categories like pottery, painting, photography, and more. The seven following NHHS members were lucky to contribute to the showcase: Katherine Jurado, Nicole Bondar, Nataly Pastaukov, Braylen Westfall, Eva Guile, Aarin Monreal, and Ms. Jordan.

Nataly Pastaukov showcased a painting she made at the beginning of the first semester this school year. Pastaukov revealed that her art teacher, Ms. Kocharian, came together with teachers Ms. Lavieri and Ms. Jordan, to decide which of her pieces was best to put in the gallery. “However, I still needed to touch up some things on it” she added, “Ms. Kocharian helped me with the process and together we achieved an interesting outcome that was put into the showcase.”

The magical thing about art is that it can turn even the darkest of emotions into something beautiful. Pastaukov shares this sentiment and shares the thought process behind her painting and how it was sparked by her uncertainty about life after high school. She began, “It was made during a time in my life where I was very conflicted, worried, and confused about my future, specifically what comes after graduation. It’s a feeling I’m sure many students, seniors especially, were feeling.”

She continued, “So I took all these feelings and tried to create a painting with them. The subject in my painting is meant to look lost like it’s searching for something while it drifts through water. And the small amount of orange coming in from the side is the future gradually approaching. I didn’t want to symbolize the future as a dark and scary thing, even though that’s how I viewed it at the time, because that’s not how I wanted to permanently feel about it.”

Eva Guile, a student entered in the ceramics category,  also shares how she used art to let go of difficult emotions. Her piece was a sculpture named “The more you love, the more your suffer”. Guile expresses how her sculpture was a “physical manifestation” of her current grief over the loss of both her best friend and boyfriend. The sculpture is of a girl with a hole in her chest, holding out her hands holding her heart, offering it to “the viewer or some unnamed person”.

“She wasn’t perfect or flawless in any artistic sense, but she was a representation of my emotions. I feel that I was able to take all my dark feelings and misguided hopes about love and life and meaning, and channel them into an object I could hold.” Guile said, “I set out with the title and idea for this piece as a way to promise myself not to love again; that all love breeds is suffering.”

Aarin Monreal also talks about her ceramics project, which took four weeks to make, called ‘A Wishing Whale’; an effigy vessel of a whale with a removable lid shaped like water shooting out. She said, “I have had this obsession with sea life ever since I was a child, and I think it circles into most of my works now, including this piece. I also was inspired by folktales and fantasy stories where they would have whales swimming in the stars of the universe.”

Monreal added, “It’s fantastic how both the sea and the sky can be depicted as connected because of how similar they are. I wanted to connect the whale to a wishing star…. so you can say this piece is what I envisioned in my childhood mind, always lost in the distance.”

The participating students also go in-depth on the making of their pieces. Guile said, “Besides the emotional component, the piece was difficult to make.” Guile mentioned this piece was her first sculpture. She confessed she was afraid of making something too big and had made two smaller versions before, one of which she planned on finishing up.

However, Guile said, “When I got to the face details, I realized I’d have to make the big version. The resigned, melancholic facial expression of the girl could not be properly conveyed with a square inch of clay. I actually ended up surprising myself with how naturally sculpting came to me. Although I had to perform emergency surgery when an arm fell off, I’m happy with my final piece.”

Katherine Jurado, entered in the photography category, talks about her piece, “Memories of a Lost Town”, taken at Bodie State Historic Park in Bridgeport. She said, “I wanted to capture through the name that this place is historic and there were once people who lived there and suddenly left.” This town is now in “arrested decay” which Jurado said she saw as a “chance to capture life in the past.”

Jurado informed that she actually took this picture a few years ago. She said this made the editing process a challenge because she wanted to make a few changes while maintaining the “old, rundown look of the photo.”

Jurado said another challenge was actually taking the photo. She said tourists were not allowed in most buildings like houses and schools, within more, so she had to take the picture through a window.

When it comes to the actual showcase, both Pastaukov and Monreal made emphasis on the good energy within it, influenced by the band that had been playing. “It exceeded my standards.” Pastaukov said, “When I arrived there was an amazing band playing beautiful music that instantly got me dancing.” Monreal said, “Immediately while you’re treading there from your car to the gallery, you’re greeted with music played by a band!! It was really nice because the music was kind of like a ‘Hello!!, Welcome!!’ ”

On the opposite feeling, Guile did have some criticism of the gallery’s organization. “I attempted to go to the showcase reception for the culmination of the show and was unable to find the gallery. My mom and I drove all around CSUN and it was deserted— there were no parking attendants or informants or students. We parked for ten minutes to walk to what we thought were the galleries and when we got back we had a ticket.”

Despite organizational issues, the showcase had a wonderful environment.  “It’s kind of humane when thinking about it. Tens, maybe even hundreds of people attended the art gallery just to experience and look at works of art made by human hands. Appreciating the work of humankind, and maybe letting it influence how you think or feel. So sentimental.” said Monreal, “Overall, I loved the showcase, and it absolutely met my standards, even exceeded them. I met with my family to look at the different pieces of media, and it definitely is a memory I treasure the most. We just aisled through the artwork looked at the details, made connections, and appreciated the artisanship of it all.”

Our participating students bring together a concept of realization given to them through the experience of the showcase. Pastaukov said she gained confidence in her art. Her art being something she had never really shown off,  she said, “seeing something my own hands made in an art gallery, surrounded by a number of other beautiful pieces really made me realize how you don’t have to be “perfect” at something for it to be beautiful.”

Guile talks about her passion for art, ceramics specifically, conveying its importance to her. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve been creating in any way I can.” she said, “Despite this society’s reliance on art and media, careers in art are few and rarely lucrative. I greatly admire anyone who makes a career out of their passion.” Guile mentioned she has many other hobbies, but assured that art will continuously be part of her life. 

Monreal said, “With so many people seeing my work, it has encouraged me to keep on creating and making things! It was so inspiring just seeing others, the same age as me, and their work displayed.” Jurado said the experience of the showcase brought her confidence in her own photography skills, making her take more interest and effort into her work, instead of a simple hobby.

In an unexpected turn of events, it is revealed that Ms. Jordan, an NHHS photography teacher, also participated in this showcase. Ms. Jordan starts talking about her experience mentioning her process of preparation was different. She said, “Our process was, as teachers, to pick two students each, Ms. Lavieri and Ms. Kocharian participated, and I chose Kat Jurado and Nicole Bondar based on the excellence of their work.”

Ms. Jordan said her piece was a photograph she took in Jalisco, Mexico of a koi pond in a retreat. “It was a beautiful setting,” she said, “I just acted on the moment of being presented with a great sot and took it. No special meaning or message, just a remembrance of a great trip to a fascinating place.”

“The showcase is wonderful, very professionally presented, and the student work is remarkable.” she said, “ Participating in the show is always a wonderful experience, I hope to do it for as long as I am at NHHS.”

Art forms a crucial part of society, the CSUN art gallery is an opportunity for student artists. Our NHHS participants have mixed feelings about their pieces. While some like Jurado and Ms. Jordan say their pieces were more of an in the moment piece, some others like Guile expressed that their piece had significant emotional weight. Regardless, these students can agree on the beauty in art and the showcase. Art can make every emotion seem beautiful, and this showcase created togetherness and unity within a small community of students.