Seven area students earned an award for their art at the 2022 Student Art Show, held at the Red Door Art Gallery Thursday evening, Jan. 13.

The show was sponsored by Alpha Delta Kappa and judged by Fargo, North Dakota, artist Michael Dunn. An audience of community members, proud parents and eager students showed up to listen to Dunn recognize the top pieces.

“Big Mac” by Wahpeton student Katalena Batiste earned best in show, “Shy” by Breckenridge student Isabel Haavig earned first place and “Siblings” by Wahpeton student Caelyn Valentine earned second place.

“Mist” by Wahpeton student Jenna Burchill, “Shells” by Breckenridge student Riley Nelson, “Zentangle” by Wahpeton student Chelsea Buechler and “#MMIW” by Wahpeton student Larissa Haukaas earned merit awards.

“It’s always fun to come in and see new work. Whether it’s a student show, a college show or a professional show, one of the things I look for is variety, craftsmanship, creativity and, of course, the elements and principles of art,” Dunn said.

Dunn, a retired art teacher of 41 years, said every artist starts somewhere. Many times, learning begins with imitation. Once an artist becomes more comfortable and begins to find their voice, they can break the rules. Several of the winning pieces, including the best in show, broke away from realism to explore the abstract.

The best in show, “Big Mac,” was so successful because it didn’t look exactly like a hamburger, Dunn said. Whether it was purposefully abstract or not, it worked. The piece left one with an impression rather than a quick image of a realistic burger.

“The artist was not trying to paint a photographic, realistic cheeseburger,” Dunn said. “She was using mark making. When you look at a piece of art, you want to see the artist’s journey, you want to see the marks they put on the page if that’s the intent. There’s no doubt that that’s an impressionistic rendering of a cheeseburger.”

Dunn spoke with some of the student artists about their artwork, giving them praise on certain aspects and advice on how to make the piece stronger. He went into detail about Burchill’s acrylic painting, “Mist,” which Dunn said had wonderful elements of transparency and color.

“My intent was to make something no one had seen before, and this way the headspace I was in — something that was eerie and there was nobody around. I wanted something real, but I wanted it to have that mystical feeling to it,” Burchill said of her winning piece, “Mist.”

Wahpeton High School art teacher Shania Schooler said she was overwhelmed with pride for her students. Five of the seven awards went to Wahpeton youth. Schooler curated a number of art pieces from throughout the entire semester.

“They did amazing. I’m so proud of them,” Schooler said. “Some of them were like, ‘I can’t believe you chose my stuff to put in here,’ but I hope now they realize why I chose their art to bring here for people to see.”

It is Schooler’s first year teaching after graduating from Valley City State University.

“It’s not only an accomplishment for them, it’s an accomplishment for me to see this,” Schooler said.

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