Ugly is the new pretty

An art student’s perspective on the unusual side of art

One of the hardest pieces Junior Nhi Pham has ever accomplished is ‘Delusion.’ She spent two weeks sketching and one month coloring the piece. Even though Pham spent a generous amount of time creating her piece, the process reminded her of what art stands for in her life.

Pham’s passion for art started with doodling when she was younger. Pham, who is currently taking AP Art IV Drawing, wanted to make art a serious hobby once she pursued it in eighth grade.

“I used to make comic strips about my friends,” Pham said. “I wanted to make things at a more refined level. When I was little, it was just for fun, but now I want to make something that I could be critiqued off of.”

Pham has competed in the Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE) for the past two years and plans to compete again this year. If a student received a four rating on their piece, they can compete at state. Pham has reached state level in the past two years. She is planning on submitting pieces based on her art concentration ‘Barriers,’ which is a broad topic students choose for their art pieces.

“I had to focus on things that separate people,” Pham said. “So I have to do multiple pieces that reflect that theme. My parody ‘Romeo and Juliet’ piece is talking about the barrier of love. [In my piece] the man is in a comic book and he’s reaching out to a woman who is reaching out of a television and they can’t reach each other.”

For VASE last year, Pham submitted a painting called ‘Delusion.’ This piece is a representation of Pham’s unique artistic perspective which focuses on capturing the unusual characteristics of art rather than the more traditionally attractive side.

“Most of the time, art is portrayed through pretty-looking faces and so I wanted to do something that was more interesting,” Pham said. “So by making my face ugly and more distorted, I thought it would be more interesting to draw and more interesting to look at. Art doesn’t always have to show the prettiest or most aesthetically pleasing perspectives.”

According to Pham, people usually consider the idea of nature as appealing and pleasing but in her piece, ‘Delusion,’ she conveys the message that not everything is the way it seems.

“I think it’s just more interesting to the eye to see something that’s not conventional pretty,” Pham said. “So I guess whenever I look at art by other artists, I like to look at more gruesome pieces than I do pretty landscape paintings just because there’s more to see and it speaks more when it’s talking about an ugly message.”

Pham’s art teacher Jennifer Russell has seen a progression in Pham’s art over her two years of teaching Pham. Russell said typically looks for students who aren’t afraid to mess up and learn from their mistakes, which is a characteristic she had seen in Pham.

“I think in concepts, she’s always looking for a different ideas,” Russell said. “She’s always looking for something a little deeper than the normal student. As she gets older she experiences different things, hears more news and reads about more things. Her ideas are constantly changing and that’s what I’ve seen her grow in the most.”

Pham enjoys the freedom to explore ideas and use her imagination. The idea of creating and finished a product is something Pham is passionate about. Pham said she has learned that if you only half-heartedly enjoy an idea, it’s better to start from scratch and explore an idea you are enthusiastic about.

“I think art should be emotional,” Pham said. “I think it should evoke something in you and if a piece doesn’t make you feel something, then it’s not art.”