Louisville High School senior Nathalie Moreno has applied to the University of Southern California to pursue a career in fine arts. On the afternoon of March 23, she was thrilled to learn that renowned artist Gayle Garner Roski — for whom USC’s Roski School of Art and Design is named — would back her with a letter of recommendation.

Garner Roski is a member of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels’ fine arts committee and a strong promoter of the fourth annual Robert Graham Memorial Student Art Exhibit, which opened March 23 and runs through May 4. Moreno is one of 72 Catholic high school participants, having created “The Lion of God,” an unusual but faith-based sculpture on display at the Cathedral.

The Graham exhibit, named for the creator of the Cathedral’s Bronze Doors, usually takes place during Lent. Most of the art pieces are related to inner contemplation, life, forgiveness and resurrection.

Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, Cathedral pastor who presented certificates to all 72 students following the 10 a.m. Mass, prayed for continued “inspiration with the gift of creativity, for to do so is to image our Creator God.”

For the first time this year, the exhibit included five sculptures or mixed media pieces. The addition of the 3D work was labeled as “a fantastic element to show” by Steve Graham, Robert Graham’s son, who delivered the welcoming remarks.

Moreno’s mixed media piece, “The Lion of God” is the head of a lion made of paper mache, with its mouth wide open holding a marble cross inside, with vine branches around it. A tiny white lamb sits in front of the cross. The interior of the mouth is covered with blue paper, representing water.

The Louisville student has “always been into art,” but it was not until her junior year that she started experimenting with sculpture in her AP 3D Art class. She said she enjoys experimenting with different materials until the idea she has in mind becomes real.

She first sketched “Lion” without a cross, but with the support of her teacher and classmates she came up with the idea of a cross, to help give balance to the piece, and to show another element. “The cross is more like a sign of life than death,” she said, and so the cross “is protecting the lamb.”

Aside from paintings, the exhibit also included photography, including one authored by Loyola High School senior John Davies. After taking several photos of sculptures at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, his piece “Pietá” was chosen by his AP Art teacher.

Participating schools also included Mayfield (Pasadena), Immaculate Heart (Los Angeles), St. Francis (La Ca√±ada), Flintridge Sacred Heart (La Ca√±ada Flintridge), Crespi (Encino), Providence (Burbank), Marymount (Westwood), Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary (Montebello), Chaminade (West Hills), and St. Monica (Santa Monica).

Teachers and parents alike were amazed by the level of work and professionalism of the artwork.

“This is so beautiful. Students can see this and be proud of themselves,” said Clarissa Silva, mother of 16-year-old Nicolette Silva, a junior at Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary High School, who is participating in the exhibit with a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“I never knew my niece had talent like this,” commented her aunt Sylvia Samudio.

Graham said the exhibit provides an opportunity to students seeking to pursue a career in fine arts, to show they have participated in an exhibit.

Garner Roski said the show also prepares students for college. “This will help them learn to use the creative side of their brain,” she said.

For more information about the Robert Graham Student Art Exhibit, visit olacathedral.org or email [email protected].