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AP 3-D

Christian Varela

Riverside-Brookfield Township High School|
Riverside, Illinois
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Dimensions: 85” x 48” x 48”|Material(s): Reed, wood glue, Styrofoam head, yarn, sticky tack, and a pair of shoes.|Process(es): The body is made of glued reed and the head is wrapped in yarn with strands stuck onto the wall.|Curatorial Note: Beautifully constructed and installed in a way electrifies the space in a powerful way.

Student statement

My work centers around the beauty of being human. I wanted to explore this idea of our human existence and express it through different materials to match how unique and complex we all are. I explore emotions, experiences, and the physical and biological aspects of being human. Using different materials like reed, yarn, wire, and paper, I continuously experimented with how to communicate what it means to be human. While trying to bring more of an abstract understanding and challenging our sense of being human, I was always practicing, experimenting, and revisiting my ideas to create more meaningful and engaging work. Ultimately, I aimed to inspire others to see themselves in a new and meaningful way. By expressing the unique and complex nature of human existence through art, I try to appreciate the beauty and value of our own lives.

TEacher statement

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Suzanne Zimmerman
Christian’s gravity-defying sculptures showcase figurative and non-objective repeated forms suspended in mid-air to highlight cavities from one organic silhouette to the next. His installations are studies of the human body - macro to micro - referencing the intravenous and nervous systems, cells, limbs, and more. These ideas are activated in space through voluminous, lightweight, organic structures in a background filled with continuous and contrasting fibrous materials, such as deep red yarn strategically strung straight or in a scrambled pile juxtaposed against a natural wood or reflective metal wire structure. Pronounced tonal, textural, spatial, and directional qualities are important across Christian’s entire portfolio of work. He manipulated linear materials to manifest a technically and conceptually exceptional three-dimensional artwork through his acute understanding of its technical capacities and limitations coupled with clever and strategic display choices and dozens of hours of work each week.
Christian took risks at every step and would continue despite the many obstacles presented, working on a large scale, applying accurate figure proportions rendered through tenuous materials, and then resolving installation and exhibition issues. He addressed every painstaking detail through unwavering self-discipline, peer and mentor discourse, and countless work hours. Christian’s motivation to create is remarkable and inspiring. I spotted his talent almost immediately, and he was fast-tracked into the Advanced Placement Art and Design program from an introductory class in his last year of high school. His grand ideas often started at home in his basement after taking home materials from my supply room and evolved into larger-than-life installations in our Art Hallway, where one of his pieces remains. We collaborated on documentation, materials, and solutions for suspending forms from the ceiling daily as he popped in and out of the department between classes, lunch, before and after school. His installation will remain on display and be celebrated in our department for years.
As a teaching artist, I work daily to empower children to identify as artists, reaching out to all identities and capacities regardless of experience. For this reason, we open the door to budding artists and foster growth alongside seasoned upperclassmen in our program. I thrive on guiding students to explore, process, and express their place in this world and help build their curiosity and understanding of our visual culture with autobiographical artwork, on-site trips, and guest speakers from the plethora of cultural institutions around town and the world through self-guided research and constant dialogue. Together, we manifest what matters to them into a great original artwork. My classes learn how to apply talent after high school, taking ownership of the idea from first-hand experiences with individual designers and creative mentors to consult. We show work annually at our local art center in a professional gallery, a collaboration that has led to internships and employment through networking in the community. Critiques, competitions, school art shows, and creating work to sell for charity cultivate a comprehensive picture of how to be an engaged artist and activist in practice. We try to help our young artists thrive professionally and personally by learning to apply creative problem-solving, community, confidence, and perseverance in the art studio and their other life adventures.
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While trying to bring more of an abstract understanding and challenging our sense of being human, I was always practicing, experimenting, and revisiting my ideas to create more meaningful and engaging work. Ultimately, I aimed to inspire others to see themselves in a new and meaningful way.

Principal statement

Héctor Freytas
Paws-Up! Woof, Woof, Woof! I am incredibly proud of Christian Varela's accomplishments with the guidance of his exceptional Art teacher, Mrs. Suzanne Zimmerman. Allowing art teachers and their students the freedom and time to work is paramount. Student artists need a supportive environment, and Mrs. Zimmerman, a consummate art educator, provides a safe space for her students to develop and showcase their creative talents. Christian has consistently stood out since joining Riverside Brookfield High School. His remarkable talent is evident, having established an almost permanent art exhibit at his former school, and it is clear that he is destined for even greater growth as an artist. As a principal, I aim to support and ensure that we have talented art teachers who recognize the creative potential in all students and help nurture that talent. Many students come to us with an interest in art but are uncertain about which medium to pursue. It has been incredibly exciting to witness Christian’s growth as a student artist, and we eagerly anticipate where his creative abilities will take him. I advise other principals to provide students and teachers with the necessary resources and, most importantly, the time and space to foster their creative genius.
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Christian Varela