Special from Justin-Siena High School, Napa, CA. One of our newest graduates, Nicole Drawsky ’18, continues to make a mark on her community through one of her first languages – art.
Bound for California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo next fall to pursue a degree in their top-ranking architecture program with a minor in sustainable environments, Nicole is a proud and decorated 4-year art student and President of the Justin-Siena chapter of the National Art Honor Society.
Earlier this year, Justin-Siena students, including Nicole, mounted a special exhibit at the Napa Valley Museum Yountville – a five-county, juried art display called “First Response” open to high school students as a way to use art to express reactions to the October North Bay Wildfires. The thoughtful and timely show elicited a great community response, and Nicole’s “People’s Choice” award-winning contribution will continue to make an impact into the future!
When museum Executive Director Laura Rafaty and Manager of Programs and Exhibitions Ariel Loraine discussed the idea to acquire a work from “First Response” as an extended loan, or part of their permanent collection at the Museum, they hoped to “find a way to extend the remembrance and impact of the fires in the North Bay.” As part of a special program in their permanent collection, “History in the Making”, in the Don and Lonne Carr History Gallery, the collection will showcase stories and works that define current local culture through the experience of members of our community and how these events shape our future. An award-winning piece from Nicole’s extensive body of work and story will be included in this special collection. What an honor for such a young artist.
Upon Nicole’s agreeing to the loan, Ms. Loraine said, “We look forward to having your work live here at the Napa Valley Museum Yountville – your powerful message and testimony can continue to be a public voice that is echoed by local community members who shared an experience similar to yours. It can help visitors gain insight into our history – the things that shape and strengthen us. My hope is that for everyone who comes through our doors, it is a reminder that art is a powerful medium that we need to celebrate and support as an outlet in times of joy and grief.”
Nicole’s piece, a mixed media painting called Our Ladies (of Sorrow and Spleen), first appeared as part of the Justin-Siena student-curated art show, “First Response,” a juried show with art from Napa, Sonoma, Marin, and Solano county high school students. The theme for this show was very personal for Nicole as it pertained to student responses to the recent devastating wildfires, during which Nicole’s family lost their home and her grandparent’s 100-year-old chicken ranch homestead in the Tubbs Fire. According to the museum, visitors “are encouraged to vote for what they feel is the strongest or favored piece in the exhibit.”
Having just graduated from Justin-Siena, Nicole now looks toward the future. She has decided to pursue architecture at Cal Poly because she shares in the vision of a new wave of young professionals who want to design innovative buildings that improve people’s lives in measurable ways, and create environments that promote health and dignity. Nicole will also continue her study and practice in the fine arts. In Nicole’s words, “art is like air, necessary for life!” Nicole enjoys teaching art to young people and expanding the appreciation of and opportunity to make art at the community level, and hopes to continue this role as art advocate and teacher. This summer, Nicole will be teaching high school students at the residence art studio program at the Oxbow School in Napa.
These are a few of the comments left on their ballots:
- “Moved me emotionally!”
- “Nicole’s reality comes through in this piece – tragically – her recognition of that which was lost and truthfulness of its effects”
- “Exceptional insight and emotions invoked by the work, the duality of experience and unique use of materials”
Nicole Drawsky ’18
Our Ladies (of Sorrow and Spleen)
Mixed Media/Oil Painting
Justin-Siena High School
My artwork was my first finished piece of art I created after the fires—essentially my “first response” to it. I sought to express the two unique sets of emotion with which I struggled, in their extremes, and how I felt divided as a person. However, I imagined the face as two separate goddesses or forces of nature, rather than myself, because I felt a lack of control. The right side of the diptych expresses the rage, and wilder, uncontrolled strokes during the inferno of fire that I escaped and my extreme of emotions: anger, blame, guilt, lack of control, resentment, fear, and anxiety. I matched the colors to the colors of the fire and smoke that I watched that night as best I could, and used handmade paint from the ash and charcoal of my home, even smudging clumps of debris onto the board for texture. In contrast, the left side represents the period after the fire, and the opposite end of the spectrum of a lack of feeling: sorrow, depression, and outright apathy, which I depicted with more distinct, controlled strokes and a lack of color. It also evokes the forests, which had formerly surrounded my home; now only canted, charred trunks. The only color is in the tear-like streaks of paint I made out of the ash of my home.
On the night of October 8, my home burned in the Tubbs wildfire, which started right next to my home around 10:45 pm. My mother and I escaped with only two of our pets, leaving two more, and my father, behind. The six hours of trying to escape, until we arrived in Cloverdale, were incredibly harrowing: fearing for my father’s life, our home and pets, and trying to outrun multiple fires – coming from both Santa Rosa and Calistoga. After the fire, my life changed radically: after living in a motel for over a week, we moved about an hour away into a tiny, cramped “granny unit,” my family fell apart, I dealt with the death of a beloved pet, my school closed for two weeks, and nothing about my life seemed the same anymore. As I moved on, I expressed how I felt at each stage of my growth through art, as my outlet and passion.
Story contributed by Eileen Mize, Director of Communications, Justin-Siena High School.