A great-maned lion. A train speeding down a track. People being whirled around a carnival swing ride. And an oversized clock overlooking these seemingly random scenes.
This describes “Stopping Time,” a one-of-a-kind acrylic painting created by Ellie Nolan, a junior at Marymount High School in Los Angeles, who explained how, for her, these images coalesce into a representation of spirituality.
“This painting relates to my spirituality because it reflects how a lot of us sometimes forget to stop and focus on what’s really important to us in our lives,” Nolan recently told The Tidings. “Even though I have strange objects in my painting, it just kind of reminds me to slow down and connect with my faith.”
Nolan is among 84 student artists from Catholic high schools located across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who are currently exhibiting their original faith-inspired works at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels during the Fifth Annual Robert Graham Memorial Student Art Exhibit. Following the 10 a.m. Mass on March 8, Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, rector of the cathedral, offered a prayer and blessing ceremony to officially launch the exhibit, which will run through early May.
The participating students were accompanied by scores of parents, friends, art teachers, school officials and notable guests for the opening of the exhibit, which is on display throughout the cathedral’s north ambulatory, including the Art Chapel and Chapel 8.
Msgr. Kostelnik; Steven Graham, son of the late Robert Graham, the internationally-renowned sculptor who designed the cathedral’s bronze doors; and Gayle Garner Roski, chair of the cathedral’s fine arts committee, presented each student with a certificate in acknowledgment of their talent and participation.
“This exhibit means a lot to me,” said Graham during the opening. “It’s really exciting to see so many students [strive] to have their artwork in the cathedral, and for a lot of them it’s their first exhibit. … The exhibit is growing every year, the [art] mediums are changing and growing, and the quality is really shining.”
Garner Roski agrees that the “quality of the work [in the exhibit] just keeps getting better every single year.” Further, she noted, the experience of participating in the annual exhibit has even helped several students get into their colleges of choice to continue their artistic education and related professional pursuits.
“This is such an important show, because of the thousands of people who come through the exhibit; the fact that they’re blessed to experience the [artistic] visions of these students is spectacular,” added Garner Roski. “It’s just a win-win situation for everyone and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I’m thrilled that these schools are participating, and next year we’re going to add even more. We’ll keep doing it.”
This year’s exhibit features diverse artwork — including photography, watercolor paintings, digital prints, charcoal drawings, clay works and mixed media — from 14 Catholic high schools: Alverno (Sierra Madre); Bishop Amat (La Puente); Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary (Montebello); Chaminade College Preparatory (Canoga Park); Crespi Carmelite (Encino); Flintridge Sacred Heart (La Ca√±ada Flintridge); Immaculate Heart (Los Angeles); La Salle (Pasadena); Louisville (Woodland Hills); Loyola (Los Angeles); Marymount (Los Angeles); Mayfield (Pasadena); Providence (Burbank); and St. Monica (Santa Monica).
For Sofia Zabala, a senior at Immaculate Heart, Los Angeles, her favorite aspect of being featured in the show was seeing how “everyone interprets spirituality differently” through their art. She said she also enjoyed the opportunity to combine two important passions in her life: her love of art and her Catholic faith.
“I had never made a piece of art related to my faith, so that kind of challenged me and I’m really happy with what I produced,” she said. “I loved the process.”
Zabala’s submission, a watercolor titled “All Come from Dust,” depicts flowers blooming from a dead animal’s skull and was intended to show that even in death “there is still life after — like Jesus’ death, life continued after he resurrected, and we too continue to grow and blossom after death.”