“Inferno” and “Serendipity.”
Those were the titles of just two of the 2018 Spring Portfolio Shows, a beloved annual tradition for Colorado Academy visual art students and the entire Upper School. On Wednesdays at lunchtime throughout the spring months, Upper School students streamed to the Ponzio Arts Center to view the artwork of seniors in the lovely, naturally-lit exhibit area. For underclassmen, the Portfolio Show is a chance to seek inspiration from the work of older students. For seniors like Ann-Claire Lin and Foster Zinn, the Portfolio Show represents a moment to share their best work with the CA community, gracefully accept public praise, and celebrate the convergence of creativity and hard work.
Lin laughs when she remembers the first pot she ever made. “It was extremely small,” she says. “It had giant lumps at the base and paper thin walls at the top.” Undeterred by her first not-very-successful attempt, she persisted. In February, she displayed her fine pottery bowls, pitchers, and mugs at her Portfolio Show. Her favorite piece was a bowl inspired by the Japanese philosophy of “wabi-sabi,” which embraces the flawed or the imperfect. This is the underlying concept of the pottery art of kintsugi. Lin created a pot, broke it (“Nerve-wracking!”) and then repaired the pot, highlighting the cracks with gold powder.
“I love trying new things that are challenging,” Lin says. “I liked the thought behind this—that imperfection is its own kind of perfection, and I thought it was intriguing to take an abstract idea and manifest it in this physical object.”
Lin took three trimesters of studio art: drawing, painting, and ceramics. She also displayed her charcoal sketches at her show, but her focus turned to pottery after the death of a great-uncle who had taught her to throw and glaze. In Visual Arts teacher Katy Hills, she found someone who encouraged the kind of open, enthusiastic energy that seniors must bring to mounting their Portfolio Shows. “You can tell she is really passionate about what she does,” Lin says. “She helps each one of us find that same passion.”
Lin hopes to continue studying creative arts at Brown University next year because it helps keep her balanced. “So much of what we learn is how to solve problems and think analytically, but in studio you have a chance to use your hands and connect with material,” she says. “This sends you into the right brain and gives you a creative outlet.”
Zinn called his Portfolio Show, which showcased his photography, “Serendipity,” because it was about “finding good things without looking for them.”
In his case, those unexpected discoveries included beaches, mountains, a high-performance car, and a white rose with fiery flames licking the delicate petals. His photography includes work from around the country, including the coast of California, New York, and Florida. Among his favorite photographs is a huge print of the beaches at Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, taken from the top of a cliff, looking along the waterfront.
“It’s very cool to see your photo blown up to such a big size because you are accustomed to seeing it on a digital screen,” Zinn says. “It takes you to a place and makes you part of a moment.”
Zinn fell in love with photography (he has taken it at CA for 10 trimesters) because “it helps you appreciate the detail in things you walk by every day.” He credits his teacher, Jesse Myers, with taking a novice photo student and helping him develop his passion. “I’ve learned everything from him—exposure, composition, Photoshop techniques, studio lighting, using an off-camera flash,” Zinn says. “He helped me develop my style.”
As he stands in the exhibit hall at the Ponzio Arts Center, Zinn admits it’s a “bittersweet” moment. But even after he leaves CA, photography will not leave him. He may not become a professional photographer, but he discovered his passion at CA, and he plans to take great pictures for the rest of his life.