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PHS seniors honored for artwork

Phoenix High senior Bradley Pogue holds up his oil painting, titled "A Pig Sees His Equal." Pogue was one of three PHS students selected as regional winners in the 2021 Congressional Art Competition. (photo courtesy of Phoenix High School)

When pushed to assign some meaning to his Baroque-style oil painting titled “A Pig Sees His Equal,” Bradley Pogue said in hindsight, sure, it could be a reference to “Animal Farm.” Then there’s the obvious Shakespearean nod.

He loved the idea of a highlighted central focus and a grainy, dark background. But when it came to his decision to make a ruff-clad, skull-holding pig his subject, Pogue just went with his gut.

“I particularly liked a lot of the portraits from back then,” he said, “and I thought it would be really cool if I combined that but I made the subject a little bit more weird, so I thought of farm animals. I kind of switched from doing goats and cows and what not, but I settled on a pig instead. And I thought that was cool.”

Pogue’s painting was one of three works of art by Phoenix High students who were recently chosen as regional winners in the 2021 Congressional Art Competition, an annual Artistic Discover Contest open to all high school students in grades 9-12. The Phoenix High trio were three of five winners chosen from Oregon’s Second Congressional District for the contest, which is sponsored by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The overall winner, MacElle Kirsch of Pendleton High School, will have her artwork displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol and featured on House.gov’s Congressional Art Competition page. According to the Argus Observer, Kirsch’s work, titled “North American Bobcat in the Snow,” is a collage of glue and magazine clippings arranged to create an image of a bobcat trudging through snow.

Phoenix High’s regional winners, all seniors, were Pogue, Sussan Solis Uribe and Sydney Aghajanian.

Uribe’s mixed-media work, titled “Hawk,” was created using graphite, color pencil and acrylic; and Aghajanian’s work, titled “Divinity Carved from Stone,” is a graphite drawing with a touch of gold gilding.

Phoenix High fine arts teacher Jessica Rollins said the school has had anywhere from one to three student submissions selected as winners all seven years the school has taken part in the Congressional Art Competition, including two overall winners. She said this year’s entries, which were each submitted by seniors, were impressive.

“They were all really strong pieces,” she said. It’s always interesting to see which ones the judges pick out but I think they were all fantastic choices.”

Rollins said the school has a solid four-year art program that includes an advanced placement option.

“So they can take up to five credits of art here at the high school,” she said. “And I don’t jump around between units — I don’t do a watercolor class or a drawing class. I stack them like art 1 or art 2, so it’s building. So by the time they’re seniors they’re pretty strong and that helps with the competitions.”

The school’s three most recent winners each committed a lot of time to their winning pieces, and each submitted two pieces to the contest.

Pogue said “A Pig Sees His Equal” was his first crack at an oil painting and took about a week-and-a-half to paint, and that was after he rushed at the end to finish in time for the contest. Pogue is planning to attend Southern Oregon University next fall. He’s undecided on a major but says it’ll likely be STEM-related.

“I figured I’d take something a little more stable,” he said. “I think there is something beautiful about sciences.”

Solis Uribe worked on “Hawk” two to three hours a day for about two-and-a-half weeks, and you can see that level of commitment in the attention to detail. It’s an up-close, neck-up profile of a stoic hawk with the only bit of color — the glowing embers of its yellow-orange eye.

Solis Uribe said she referenced several pictures but relied on one in particular as a model. The beak proved particularly challenging, she said.

“I couldn’t seem to get it right with the original pictures,” she said, “so I used a different picture for the beak and the eye.”

Solis Uribe, who plans to take marketing classes next fall at Rogue Community College, used graphite for the hawk, colored pencil for the eye and acrylic for the background.

Aghajanian worked on “Divinity Carved from Stone” three to five hours a day for three days. The drawing, which shows a statue as viewed from below, was praised by judges as a “great example of drawing light and shadow, reminiscent of master painters/drawers.”

Aghajanian aspires to a career as a funeral director and is planning to study mortuary science next fall at Mt. Hood Community College.

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.