2019 Winners & Special Distinctions

First Place

For the 2019 Art of Conservation, Connect, a strong set of submissions yielded five First Place prizes: two in painting and three in photography.

Annabelle Cutrer

MV Regional High School, Grade 11

Yellow Strip (Painting)

Artist's statement: While walking the paths of Cedar Tree Neck, I was automatically drawn to the rectangular strips of color that were being used as trail markings.  I noticed that they were all perfectly placed, until I came across a yellow one that had been carelessly splattered. I connected with this because of how different it was not only from the rest of the path markings, but also from the surrounding nature.

The Judges’ Perspective: This partly abstract painting is still strongly evocative of nature.  The realistic natural colors, paired with the daring use of an anomalous yellow strip of paint, assists in delivering the artist’s message. The artist’s text and intent are clear and well balanced. The artist has captured both man’s attempt to admire and connect to nature but also his failure.  Amidst the surrounding beauty, the dripping, marred yellow marker slams the viewer in the face. The marker tarnishes the tree’s natural beauty and all that is around it, but in addition, the marking task has been executed poorly. A powerful statement of man’s attempt to steward nature imperfectly. The painting’s title speaks words.

Indigo Giambattista

MV Regional High School, Grade 11

Unspoken (Painting)

Artist's statement: Sometimes we tend to forget what the natural colors of the earth can offer us. As humans we pollute the earth with foreign, unnatural colors. Unspoken is a work to commemorate the natural beauty of the earth.  It is a piece meant for the viewer to view how these colors tie into the earth, both with the water, ground, air and sun, and to acknowledge that soon they’ll all be faded and gone.

The Judges’ Perspective: A surprising use of graphic design and powerful text to shock the viewer into realizing that mankind constantly pollutes the beauty of the earth with its own “colors”, turning the earth to a muted, bland and sad grey world.  A deeply profound and thoughtful commentary.

Jenaleigh Griffin

MV Regional High School, Grade 11

Preserve the Trust (Photography)

Artist's statement: Nature means so incredibly much to me.  I am so in love with this island and the beautiful landscapes that we are so fortunate to have.  Nature is such a powerful thing that I can’t help but feel so connected to it.  I chose this image because I loved how the weeds were growing through parts of the car, but I especially loved how the license plate says, “Preserve the Trust”.  I think as humans we need to take our environment more seriously and start to preserve our land.  A way that I connect with my natural surroundings is by putting my phone down and taking a walk to have a fresh breath of air and to feel the sun on my face.  Our natural habitat is one thing we all have in common – we are connected by this earth because without it, we wouldn't be here.

The Judges’ Perspective: The composition eloquently captures the essence of man in combat with nature.  The subtle but off-center image forces the viewer to adjust one’s framing of the image, engaging the viewer in trying to “resolve” and center the photo’s image and message.  The consumptive waste of man covers the forest floor, as nature slowly tries to returns the waste to the soil. The license plate adds an excellent ironic twist. How poorly we steward what nature provides.

Kaleb Hatt

MV Regional High School, Grade 9

Untitled (Photography)

Artist's statement: This is the skull of a deer I found in the forest with a plant growing out of it.  I was determined to bring it home and show off what I had found.  I then decided to take a photo of the skull on my brother’s Volvo. I did this because a while back my brother struck a deer driving home from hockey practice. This encounter between the car and animal showed me how we, as citizens on this island, affect the daily life of animals and ecosystems. As we drive farther and farther into their territory to build new homes and streets, every animal is in some way affected.  When an encounter like this happens, it's not the animal’s fault for following its instinct.  It’s our fault for getting in the way of that instinct. Something needs to be done before this incident becomes one of the most common kind on the street.

The Judges’ Perspective: The artist’s inventive portrayal of death and destruction is both macabre and sad.  The dual images, one of which is crisp and the other murky, portrayed ‘upside down” cleverly force the viewer to step back to “figure it out”.  The incompatibility of the skull with the painted car hood slams the viewer into a reality check – who are we in nature, what have we done, what are we doing, quite literally on the backs of our cars with their fossil fuels. To draw the line, as the artist does between the car and the deer skull, is provocative and wonderfully well conceived.

Julianne Joseph

MV Regional High School, Grade 11

What Nature Created (Photography)        

Artist's statement: The connection my picture portrays is the connection between humans and nature.  Humans ARE nature but we do everything in our power to destroy it.  Not only are we nature, but we control it.  We decide the destiny of our planet and everything inhabiting it.  At some point, nature will no long exist – like a popped balloon.

The Judges’ Perspective: The composition is serious and well conceived and yet also strange, resulting in an eloquent and astonishing piece expressing the exasperation and sense of betrayal of the artist.  The powerful composition in color reflects the human stain and impact on nature.  At the same time, it shows progression and movement from a full and healthy balloon to a popped and forlorn balloon. The photographer’s model, like an ancient Greek statue that has spent centuries under water, expresses our future when the air will have gone out of the world as we know it.  A truly provocative and contemporary work expressing a call to action.

Special Distinctions

In addition, six photographs and one painting took honors as Special Distinctions:


MV Regional High School, Grade 9

Untitled (Photography)

The Judges’ Perspective: The composition captures three powerful perspectives all in one – (1) the past, as seen in the shadow of a horse and rider; (2) the present, with the horse looking forward; and (3) the future captured by a broad horizon filled with nature and sky. The shaggy mane and the fall ground cover give the photo interesting textures. Perky ears, dark like the shadow on the ground, bind the image.  The connection between rider and horse – man and nature – is visible twice: once where the rider is imagined, the second time where the rider and horse are deep in shadow.

Kenny Cook

MV Regional High School, Grade 9

Untitled (Photography)

Artist's statement: I found this swan at the landing off of the boulevard.  He is pretty cool.

The Judges’ Perspective: This image says it all and requires no accompanying text to explain the tragedy of the connection between man and nature.  Man, here depicted in the muddy tracks along the shore, confronts nature in the form of a swan with its slightly menacing and suspicious look. The work captures so clearly the grace of the swan’s neck and the texture of its feathers, aligned with but contrasting so vividly with the texture and shape of the tire marks.  The imperious eye of the swan both scorns and warns. What is happening to this once beautiful environment?  A photo so evocative of the island, yet without cliché.

Rhanna De Oliveira

MV Regional High School, Grade 11

On the Rocks (Painting)

Artist's statement: When we visited Cedar Tree Neck, it was just so beautiful, even on a grey day.  Walking along the beach, being in the signature scenery of Martha’s Vineyard, provided me with a very serene and safe feeling.  I wanted to capture a beach image in my painting, but wanted it to be more than just ocean and sky.  So I chose a rocky area on the shore to incorporate a good amount of rocks into the painting as well.

The Judges’ Perspective: The artist boldly flattened the scene, eliminating any depth of field and creating an interesting, almost surrealistic image of boulders by the Sound.  The boulders seem to float and, together with the cold grey light, the painting seems almost foreboding. The result is a beautiful and haunting work.

Skyla Harthcock

MV Regional High School, Grade 11

Untitled (Photography)     

Artist's statement: This photo was taken on a field trip to Cedar Tree Neck.  My friends and I walked away from the other groups of students and found a spot to “camp out”.  Spreading out from one another, we used the macro lens to take pictures.  We sat in one spot trying to capture or notice new things.  Just sitting in one spot really opened my eyes to all the little things that you don't notice when you are walking and taking pictures.  The macro lens really brings out the details – all the veins and the shadows are so noticeable and vibrant.

The Judges’ Perspective: The dark image erupting though the yellow leaf forces the viewer to wrestle with what the dark knife-edged image really is. Is it a shadow from in front or behind – or perhaps an insidious dark and deadly growth from within?  The delicately veined pattern of leaf lit by the sun together with the dark shadow shows the yin and yang of the natural world in a microscopic way. The artist clearly approached her subject with intent and patience.  The result is a mysterious and beautiful image.

Thea Keene 

MV Regional High School, Grade 11

Untitled (Photography)            

Artist's statement: The way that barnacles attach to rock and rely on them to sustain life clearly depicts an organism’s reliance on nature.  Using a rock as a home base, barnacles can then reach out to catch their food.  I like to think that I embody a barnacle.  I use the Island of Martha’s Vineyard as my foundation and from there I am able to branch out and explore new opportunities. The involvement of nature throughout my childhood has allowed me to appreciate the small moments of beauty that arise every day.

The Judges’ Perspective: The photograph frames an exceptional black and white composition illuminating the texture of the barnacles. The visual ambiguity (are the barnacles in the water or a mere reflection?) is thought provoking: is nature a mere reflection or is it far deeper than we imagine?  The artists’ metaphor in her statement explaining how the Island sustains her -- much as the rock sustains the barnacles – is a clever and thoughtful expression about how the island is our collective. 

Emma Van Lohuizen

MV Regional High School, Grade 12

Untitled (Photography)

Artist's statement: This photo was taken at Cedar Tree Neck.  Along one of the trails, I noticed this dead bug just sitting peacefully on a budding plant.  I thought it was a good opportunity to photograph the insect because it was so still.  It made me think about the cycle of life.  As the insect was dying, a plant was beginning to blossom.  Life is constantly in this cycle of being reborn and I find that really interesting.

The Judges’ Perspective: Frozen in time by the discerning eye of the artist, the insect landed for the last time on a leaf unfurling with springtime energy.  The crispness of the insect image makes us wonder whether it is alive or not. A simple, yet powerful, composition displaying the connection of life and death in nature.  The color contrast is exquisite and the delicacy of the bug juxtaposed with the budding leaves is stunning.  The result is not unlike an exquisite piece of jewelry.  The lighting and layout on the page are professional, and the artist shows a good appreciation of negative and positive space.

Kyle Peters

MV Regional High School, Grade 9

Untitled (Photography)

Artist's statement: While I was waiting in the grass, I found some strawberry flowers.  I zoomed in on my hand which was holding the small blooms.  As the sun started to set, I saw that the lines in my hand had increased in depth. My focus was so intense it was the max depth my camera could achieve.

The Judges’ Perspective: There’s ambiguity in this photograph.  Hand in hand with nature, it expresses a deep and real connection – work the soil and out of it will arise a plant, beautiful with bountiful fruit.  A positive and hopeful image.  From another vantage, seeing the imprint of fingerprints on nature makes one see very clearly how dirty man’s fingers are in relation to the beauty of nature. A sad, but very real image. Either way, the granularity of the photo makes the work pop.

VCS Staff Pick

Emily De Souza

MV Regional High School, Grade 9

Elda (Photography)

Artist's statement: A teacher once told me to find something that made me happy and keep focused on it so that I could survive high school. Photographing small things, especially flowers, keeps me focused on school and it is my escape from the world when everything is going crazy. Plants and nature have an amazing energy that is able to free my mind from the things that make me unhappy.

The Judges’ Perspective: The VCS Staff are not artistic judges but like to recognize a piece each year that we plan to use in publication. We loved this piece for its detail, connecting and exposing the viewer to aspects of this flower rarely observed. The photograph presented both literally as a portion of a flower or more figuratively as an image of hope and warmth, appearing almost as a rising sun. We also appreciated the artist’s articulation of her intention and relevance to this year’s theme: Connect.