A close up of eyes and the shining light produced two radiating paintings that will be observed both nationally and statewide.
Two Bridgewater-Raritan High School students submitted paintings representing New Jersey’s 7th District in the 2023 Congressional Art Competition that certainly caught the attention—and eyes–of some prominent art connoisseurs.
Sharanya Ram, a junior at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, was the New Jersey’s 7th District first-place winner in the competition for her piece that is titled “In Your Eyes.”
Angela Xu, who is a senior at the high school, shared the runner-up finish with her painting that is titled “Prism.” Also placing second in the 7th District competition was Maggie Liu of New Providence High School.
Next stop for these brilliant pieces of work will be the Cannon House Office Building at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., for Sharanya’s “In Your Eyes” to be hung while Angela’s “Prism” will be on display at the offices of Rep. Tom Kean Jr. in Washington and in Somerset County.
Sharanya’s painting will join an estimated 400 other pieces of work by student artists from around the country for one year at Cannon House Office Building, which is the oldest congressional office building—constructed in 1908—-that is located a site south of the United States Capitol.
Angela’s work will be hung for six months in Congressman Kean’s office in Washington and another six months in his District 7office that is located in Bernardsville.
Renee Trabert, who is the Special Projects Coordinator for the 7th District and who once had served as the Chief of Staff for Congressman Kean from 2002 through 2021, paid a visit to Bridgewater-Raritan High School on Thursday, May 11, in order to meet both Sharanya and Angela and to also gain possession of the two marvelous paintings that will be hung on display in the coming month.
Ms. Trabert announced that a ceremony in Washington will be held on June 20 to unveil Sharanya’s painting as well as the other winning works of art from students throughout the country.
The submissions to the 7th District competition were judged by Rachel Heberling, who is the Executive Director of Frontline Arts in Branchburg, and Alicia Ferrell, who has taught art for over 15 years and was recognized in 2017 as the Art Educators of New Jersey Elementary Art Division award winner.
Congressman Kean also took the time out to call and speak with Sharanya and Angela.
“I told him that it is pretty amazing that you are recognizing artists,” Sharanya said. “During dark times, people turn to art, especially during Covid.”
Angela informed the Congressman that he may be seeing her this summer.
“I told him I would like to pay a visit to his office and see my painting hung there,” Angela said.
Both Bridgewater-Raritan High students, who have received the splendid guidance of Art Teacher Elizabeth Stutzman, explained how they came about painting their subject.
“It started out as an eye study while I was improving realism skills in drawing,” Sharanya said about the painting of a close up of her eyes.
“But while I was painting, I thought about how loved ones see me. The painting is reserved for people who come that close to me.”
She revealed that the painting consisted of about “20 hours” of work.
On the advice of Ms. Stutzman, Sharanya submitted her painting.
“I gave it a shot. I thought I had a pretty slim chance to win.”
But when the judges picked her painting and delivered the news on May 9, she revealed that she “was not expecting that but I was excited.”
“I am quite honored,” she said.
Meanwhile, Angela took her quest lying down–literally.
She set out to paint a self-portrait over the summer and was attracted to the lighting that shined through her home.
“”I chose the lighting that came through our front door and it came in different designs,” said Angela, who will move on to Brown University after she graduates in June. “The light shined through the window panels so I laid down on the floor and took pictures of myself. “
Her fine finished product depicts her face with an assortment of rainbow lights reflecting off her face.
The elite skills of both of these gifted students have been under the tutelage of Ms. Stutzman, who was thrilled over their highly successful submissions of art.
“It is an honor to have Sharanya and Angela's acrylic paintings selected by Congressman Kean's office to be on display at the Congressman's office and U.S .Capitol and I am delighted they are being recognized for their skill and efforts,” Ms. Stutzman said.
Ms. Stutzman further explained what went into the skills that her two students displayed in crafting their works.
“Both students put extraordinary effort into painting their self-portraits and have an exceptional eye for seeing detail whether it be Sharanya's photorealistic style seen in the way she painted her eyelashes with subtlety, or Angela's precise depiction of prismatic light reflected onto her face,” Ms. Stutzman said.
Their gifts were appreciated by Congressman Kean, whose taste for the fine arts is in his blood.
His father, Thomas Kean, who served two terms as the 48th Governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990, created the New Jersey Council of the Arts.
“We have incredible homegrown talent in New Jersey and it was reflected in every submission our office received,” Congressman Kean said about the entries. “Congratulations to our honorees and thank you to all the teachers, judges and parents who supported the students, volunteered their time and made this
Congressman Kean continued.
“All of the artwork submitted truly reflects the creativity and passion within our community, and I am very proud to showcase such talented artwork in our nation’s capital.”
Superintendent Bob Beers of the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District also shared his thoughts about the two fine artists.
“They are reflective of the talent and excellence of our students,” Superintendent Beers said. “I commend them both.”
The astute Ms. Stutzman revealed the confidence that both Sharanya and Angel possess.
“These students do not shy away from visual challenges; they conquer them,’ Ms. Stutzman declared. “I could not be more proud of their accomplishments.”