It’s hard to miss the entrance to North Shore High School’s art gallery, a space visible through paned glass windows that looks somewhat like a fishbowl. Its subjects, posed on white walls, hang in midair. It’s hard not to walk through the door to get a glimpse up close of the talent that is on display.
The gallery boasts different mediums — paint, print, photo — from students in each grade level, and each piece on display evokes a unique expression. This is what Hanah Leventhal and Katherine Hagen, both 16, who live in Sea Cliff, seek to emulate in their own artwork. Their commitment to that end earned both teenagers’ recognitions for their achievements in art last month.
Hanah received a national Silver Medal in the 2018 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Her winning piece, “Cleansing My Mind,” was created with black and white charcoal on paper. Katherine’s colored pencil drawing, “Out, Damned Spot,” was accepted into the juried art exhibition “Long Island’s Best” in Huntington’s Heckscher Museum. She also received an Honorable Mention for the piece.
Hanah began her tenure as an artist by drawing birthday cards. “I have a passion for creating hyper realistic artwork based on an image,” she said. “It’s all about replicating what I see.”
She conceptualized her award-winning artwork with help from her older sister, Sarah, a “really good photographer,” to draw inspiration for the portrait. Hanah had her sister take pictures of her, and from the frames she selected what would become a nationally recognized piece of art.
“I focused on the contours and adding layers to the piece,” she said, explaining her process. “It brought the picture out in a way that improved upon my artistic talents, and that hasn’t been expressed before.”
Katherine drew inspiration for her piece from Alice Morgan Wright, an American sculptor and suffragist. Much of Wright’s artwork revolved around the difficulties women faced as artists during the 20th century. Katherine, a self-proclaimed feminist, was intrigued by Wright’s statue of Lady Macbeth.
“The sculpture shows Lady Macbeth in a state of despair and distress,” she explained. “I tried to convey the same emotions by depicting the scene where Lady Macbeth has a mental breakdown.”
The result was the image of a red, bloodied cloth being washed in a gold sink. Katherine said it was “exciting to recreate,” as she was able to manipulate the many colors of the piece. “I like the control art gives me.”
Both Hanah and Katherine were honored to be recognized for their work, even more so than other students might be, because they both view art more as a hobby rather than a career path.
“I never thought it was possible to get to such a high level,” Hanah said. “I just wanted to fulfill a passion and have some fun creating things.”
Katherine said her mention legitimized her interests in pursuing art. “I like how it makes me feel,” she said. “To say I did that knowing I can create gives me confidence in my art.”
Art teacher Elissa Mazzeo had encouraged both students to submit their work and was not surprised when the submissions yielded their respective accolades. “Both Hanah and Katherine put so much time, thought and creative energy into these pieces,” she said. “Their award-winning art is evidence of this, and also shows how they are able to merge their extraordinary technical skills with the concepts and ideas that they want to visually communicate.”
For Hanah, her interest in art is not the physical work, but in the messages it can evoke. “Being able to see things artistically helps you be open minded, and it can help people cope with certain things in their lives, whether they be exciting or hard,” she said. “Art is a great way to express your feelings, let things out, understand how society works, and it opens you up to a whole wide world.”