The Island Park Public Library hosted U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito’s art show showcasing the top high school artists in D’Esposito’s 4th Congressional District on May 3. Of 80 entries from across Long Island, there were three top winners, and the work of the number one winner, Natalie Hayes, from East Rockaway High School, will be displayed near the U.S. Capitol.
Each year, the House of Representatives hosts an art competition for students. And each year the winner is invited to Washington to see their art on display in the Cannon Tunnel, which connects the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol building.
One of the judges is special to D’Esposito, because he was his art teacher at Francis X. Hegarty Elementary School. Anthony Riccio taught in Island Park for nearly 37 years and has been retired for almost 17, but he said he was delighted to come back to judge the competition for his former student.
“It’s a very, very difficult decision to make,” Riccio said of his task. “I’m very impressed with a lot of different media, varieties, meaning to their work.” He also said he felt honored to be asked to take part, and added, “It’s good to see so many talented artists on Long Island, and I’m always happy to meet former students and catch up with what’s going on in their lives now.”
“I couldn’t even draw a stick figure,” D’Esposito said of his artistic career, “but that’s all right. I’m very happy that so many people participated. Eighty people were involved, which is great. And I have to give the tip of the hat to my staff, who have . . . reached out to all the schools and all of the art teachers and got them really involved. So it’s great to see.”
South Side High School senior Grace Kilarjian’s painting, “Duckling in Oil,” was one of those on display. Kilarjian said she was inspired by Dawn detergent commercials, but wanted to focus on the more harmful aspects of the soap, including the fact that it contains toxic ingredients and received a D grade from the Environmental Working Group — meaning it shouldn’t be used on human, or baby bird, skin.
“They set it up for the commercial,” Kilarjian said. “The bird has obviously gotten dirty on purpose, and it’s very representative of consumerism and how it’s abusive towards the wildlife and consumer greed.”
Although her art focuses on the more sinister side of consumerism, Kilarjian said, “I love art. It’s my happy place,” and spoke of the rich art programs at South Side, in Rockville Centre. She also noted the importance of letting students in art programs express themselves. “My teacher is very, very willing to allow students to express themselves in any way they please,” she said of Chris Karaktin. “A fellow student of mine . . . did a project about gender norms, you know, being that they’re part of the LGBTQ community, (and) it’s just . . . very freeing for students.”