tampabay.com

Young artists find their muse at Miami gathering

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published January 22, 2007


MIAMI - The protruding bones and scraggy postures of the distressed women portrayed in Lizette Avineri's paintings reveal her true self as an artist.

The 17-year-old painter from Lake Worth uses her struggles of having to wear a back brace to correct her scoliosis and surgeries to remove a fibroid tumor from her breast to tell stories through her art.

"I focus on my spine, breasts and the very honesty of my feminine loveliness in a gruesome, bloody, yet beautiful manner," she said. "The hardship I have gone through has created my true beauty."

She was chosen by a panel of professional judges to join an all-expense paid trip to Miami for the recent youngARTS Week, where high school seniors took part in seven days of workshops, performances and competitions.

Avineri was one of 141 finalists picked by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts from 7,300 students who applied. The nine disciplines consisted of dance, film and video, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice and writing.

"We're looking for the quality in the students' art that makes them stand out and shows their own personal style," foundation president William H. Banchs said. "We're searching for students with potential to make it in the future and on a national level. This program is here to tell them that they do have something special."

Learning other art forms

Chakaia Booker, a sculptor from New York and one of the master teachers, said the gathering is important because the young artists can be themselves and show their true potential.

"Where else can these artists go where they can showcase their talent and hard work and see what other students have offered in their own art?" said Booker, whose sculptures of worn tires have brought her significant acclaim.

Avineri, who's in the competition's Visual Arts category, hoped her work would make her one of the top winners and help pay her college tuition, but she also wanted to learn as much as possible.

"I can make clothes, paint ... and draw, but I want to introduce myself to the art of sculpturing."

Avineri said that the 3-D aspect of sculptures by other artists has inspired her to do some of her own.

"It's kind of like a taste of actually building things, as supposed to imagining something in my head and drawing it on paper," she said.

But her first passion is clearly demonstrated in her self-portraits, which are influenced by the works of the Austrian painter Egon Schiele. She learned about him when she found a book about the artist in her father's closet.

"His female bodies and the way he emphasizes each little bone or curve make me think about my body and its many bones and structure," Avineri said.

Competition pays in cash

The teenagers competed for over $500,000 in prize money, with awards beginning at $1,000. The students who win $10,000 as gold award winners and $5,000 as silver winners will be eligible to perform or have their work exhibited in New York City in April.

Some will also be eligible for selection as a United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts.

Tyler Lau, an 18-year-old photographer from Lawrence, Kan., said he still feels uneasy about considering himself an artist.

"Anyone can call themselves an artist," he said. "Just because a person does one painting, a drawing or a photograph, doesn't make you an artist."

His only training has been from following his father, a photographer who's finishing up his second book of work. They have taken summer trips to China, Canada and Italy, capturing the daily lives of people through their lenses.

"I find myself asking: What is my purpose? My standards are so complex and so high that it makes it harder for me to achieve what I am looking for. Hopefully, this competition will change why I feel uncertain that I am an artist," Lau said.