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Artist puts brother on display in nation's capital

Joanne Ciquera, who is colorblind, wins a competition that puts her sibling's portrait in Washington for a year.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Six-year-old Nicky Feeney didn't want to be a star.

His 18-year-old sister, Joanne Ciquera, was working on a colored-pencil drawing of the little redhead, based on a picture taken last summer, in which Nicky was pouting and pulling his ears out. The picture would be entered in a competition two months later, and if it beat the other entries in its congressional district, it would hang in a Washington, D.C. art gallery for a year.

Nicky wasn't too happy about that.

"I couldn't take it home and work on it because he'd draw on top of it," said Ciquera. "I used to tease him that this was going to take first place, and everybody would see it."

She was just kidding, but her casual prediction came true on Thursday. She was the Fifth District's winner in the Congressional High School Art Competition.

The drawing is now hanging in Washington's Cannon Tunnel leading to the U.S. Capitol. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives walk past it on their way to the House Chamber.

When asked about Friday his new stardom, Nicky just giggled and covered his mouth with his hands.

Ciquera was a little more effusive.

"I was shocked," she said. "I've always just done this (art) because it was something to do."

It's even more surprising, given that Ciquera is colorblind. She can't distinguish between closely related shades of blue and green, or red and brown.

She usually relies on the shade numbers written on the sides of her pencils. But something went wrong when she was drawing Nicky's portrait.

"I picked up the wrong pencil -- it was a darker brown than I wanted," she said. "I didn't even notice it until my teacher pointed it out."

No matter, she says -- it won anyway. It also earned her an "A" in Advanced Composition 3 at Ridgewood High School. The class is taught by Deborah Lepley. One of Lepley's students won the congressional competition last year for his pencil-drawn caricature of golfers.

"Dr. Lepley really pushes her students," Ciquera said.

Lepley won't be able to push Ciquera to enter competitions anymore. Ciquera graduated this month, and she'll start at the University of South Florida in Tampa in August. She's not even registered for any art classes there.

But if she takes to her college classes the way she's succeeded in Advanced Composition 3, look out. She's scheduled to take karate in the fall.

- Staff writer Mary Carmichael can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6232 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232. Her e-mail address is

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