Peruvian art student’s photo tops national competition
February 7 – PERU – Kloee Cassel, a senior high school student from Peru, said she wanted to wake people up and change their minds about the environmental issues facing the world.
But she doesn’t want to discuss it. Instead, she’ll let her photos do the talking.
And one of those photos is now in the running to be named one of the best student artworks in the country.
The piece is called “Floating Carcinogens”. It depicts another high school student floating in a pool filled with bottle caps and plastic lids. A plastic bottle pump hangs from his mouth.
The photo won the American Vision Award at the regional Scholastics art and writing competition. It is the highest award of the fair, with only five of the 1,630 student applications selected.
Now the play is heading to New York for the national competition and has a good chance of being named one of the best plays in the country.
Peruvian art professor Mike Applegate, who teaches in Kassel in the AP art class, said that of the five regional works awarded the American Vision Award, one will automatically be selected as the national winner.
Cassel took the photo as part of Applegate’s class. Each student was required to submit a portfolio of six pieces for their final work that all focus on one topic. Cassel said she was passionate about environmental issues, so she decided to focus her work on this subject.
“I just wanted to do something that could actually make people see something different and do something that might change their minds,” she said. “I wanted to use my art to change someone’s mind.”
The idea for a pool full of plastic came after school environmental studies teacher Nathan Patterson mentioned he had two 55-gallon bags of bottle caps.
Cassel said she was struck by the idea of having someone floating in each of them to draw attention to a little piece of plastic that most people never think about.
“I thought it would be a good idea to have someone ‘swimming in plastic,'” she said. “Bottle caps are a piece of plastic that has a lot more impact than you might think.”
Cassel ended up throwing a 55 gallon bag into the Applegate kiddie pool and then adding water. She arranged the plastic over and around the student until she had the exact photo she wanted.
Applegate said other students have addressed environmental issues in their art, but they generally lack that creative spark that really sets them apart. This was not the case for “Floating Carcinogens”.
“The creativity of this photo is right there,” he said. “It’s just a fantastic photo. The image is screaming to people that we have to save our planet. We have to start thinking about what’s going on.”
Another photo from Kassel also won a silver medal in the regional competition. This one is called “Baby Got Wrapped” and features a girl holding a plastic baby while they are both completely encased in plastic wrap.
Cassel is proud of her work, but did not expect to win the competition’s first prize. When Applegate told her about it, she said she couldn’t believe it.
“I said to Applegate, ‘No way,'” Cassel said. “I thought he was actually lying to me. But surprisingly, he wasn’t. My parents were beyond ecstatic.”
But no matter what happens at the national competition, Cassel will not give up on art. She said she is studying nursing next year at Ball State University, but plans to take as many art classes as possible.
“I really want to keep doing it, because I really love making art,” Cassel said. “It’s been a secondary hobby since I was very young.”
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, [email protected] or on Twitter @carsongerber1.