His art, our planet

BVH senior’s photo displayed at local museum to spread environmental awareness

Senior+and+Advanced+Placement+%28AP%29+2D+Art+%26amp%3B+Design+student+Cale+Merton%E2%80%99s+photo+submission+to+the+San+Diego+Museum+of+Art%E2%80%99s+%28SDMA%29+biannual+Young+Art+competition+was+selected+out+of+224+submissions.+This+piece+emphasizes+the+importance+of+awareness+about+the+environment+in+accordance+with+the+exhibit%27s+theme%3A+My+World%2C+Our+Planet.

Madison Geering

Senior and Advanced Placement (AP) 2D Art & Design student Cale Merton’s photo submission to the San Diego Museum of Art’s (SDMA) biannual Young Art competition was selected out of 224 submissions. This piece emphasizes the importance of awareness about the environment in accordance with the exhibit’s theme: My World, Our Planet.

At first glance, the photo may seem to be nothing more than a couple of vibrant red flowers. However, upon closer look at Bonita Vista High (BVH) senior and Advanced Placement (AP) 2D Art & Design student Cale Merton’s photo submission to the San Diego Museum of Art’s (SDMA) biannual Young Art competition, there is a much deeper meaning.

The photo not only depicts vivid flowers but captures them through the lens of a plastic water bottle with its bottom cut off. The meaningful positioning of the photo depicted the theme for 2021’s Young Art competition: My World, Our Planet. Merton’s photo was selected out of 224 submissions to be put on exhibit at SDMA.

“At first, I didn’t really think much of [the recognition]. I thought they were displaying all the artwork submitted,” Merton said. “And then my teacher told me, ‘Oh, no, you’re a finalist. They don’t do that for everyone.’ It was pretty cool.”

Merton’s teacher and greatest supporter in his endeavor to enter the Young Art competition was AP 2D Art & Design teacher Edwin Lim. In teaching students about art, Lim prioritizes keeping them “inspired” and focused on “real world” applications of their work. Encouraging students to enter in art competitions is one way that he accomplishes this goal.

Senior and Advanced Placement (AP) 2D Art & Design student Cale Merton’s description for his photo submission to the San Diego Museum of Art’s (SDMA) biannual Young Art competition. Merton’s piece will be on display until May 9th. (Madison Geering )

“I don’t force every student to enter, but rather those who feel like it’s a good match,and Cale was one of them,” Lim said. “Cale had just created this beautiful still-life pop color photo.We had the perfect contest, which is about the environment, and Cale’s photo [about plastic’s impact on the environment], was the perfect fit.”

While BVH had five digital art submissions, only Merton’s was selected for SDMA’s exhibit as one of the few photographs displayed at the museum. Merton utilized Photoshop Express to edit his photo, making it black and white except for the red flowers that are the piece’s focal point. The plastic water bottle that surrounded the flowers served as a metaphor to Merton, representing how in the future, “to view nature, we also have to view plastic and pollution.”

“During the time I took this photo, I was really scared about our environment,” Merton said. “I go to the beach and surf a lot, and when there’s trash in the ocean, especially in Imperial Beach, it really, really bothers me. When I see plastic in the ocean, it shows me what the world might be like in the future.”

The significance of environmental awareness to students like Merton is the reason behind SDMA’s selection of their 2021 theme. SDMA Museum Educator and Young Art Curator Nicole Amaya explained that the theme was one she had planned out long before the official competition.

Art is about consciousness about life,” Lim said. “We need it because, through art, we can heal. We can address our social ills and improve in the process.”

— AP 2D Art & Design teacher Edwin Lim

“Typically, the Young Art theme is based off of exhibitions that are on [display] in the museum or up and coming exhibitions. But for Young Art 2021, I really wanted to feature a theme that’s important to our students: environmental protection and sustainability,” Amaya said. “One of the most important things to me, personally, and the museum, is to make sure that our students’ voices are heard. The students have created such wonderful, powerful work.”

In addition to promoting environmental awareness through the exhibit theme and student selections, the SDMA has taken their message a step further and worked towards promoting sustainability in their exhibit’s design. Much of the exhibit was put together using recycled materials, like t-shirts, and instead of their usual vinyl designs, the exhibit walls were decorated with a projected design.

“I hope that all of the students, whether they were selected or not, feel empowered by participating in this exhibition,” Amaya said. “We really hope that the students will continue to be creative, create artwork, use their voices for what they feel is important and really feel that the museum is a home for them. We want to welcome students into the museumnot only for the Young Art exhibition, but also our other exhibitions.”

Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, art, especially art created using digital technology, has become an important avenue for artists to spread their messages.

“Art is about consciousness about life,” Lim said. “We need it because, through art, we can heal. We can address our social ills and improve in the process.”

With his unexpected recognition in SDMA’s exhibit, Merton hopes to base his sustained investigation, an element of the AP 2D Art & Design exam, on the pop color technique he used for his photo. Additionally, Merton continues to promote a sustainable and environmentally conscious lifestyle.

“This competition [gave me the confidence] to say my photography is good,” Merton said. “Especially with this specific issue, I was able to show how I feel about the environment and was able to do something about it. I feel like [art like this] gets the word out and shows how every generation should be worried about the kind of [consequences] that we may be facing.”