The pink flowered sleeves of the geisha's kimono taper down to a small hand-fan decorated with what looks like an empty branch, resting just above the end of the mixed medium-art work, a sea of red, orange and yellows dabbed to make the appearance of a splash of flames.
"I wanted to represent the decadence of the geisha, but at the same time, I wanted her to look sad," said the portrait's creator, Herndon High School junior Eliana Reyes, 16. "I guess some people can look at the empty branch on the fan as contrasting with the blooming flowers on her kimono, maybe being a commentary on the lifelessness of her position."
Reyes was one of the more than 500 students who last week presented artwork to their fellow students at Herndon High School in the school's annual art show, which was set up for viewing in the auditorium foyer on Thursday and Friday. The art display was a precursor to an extended exhibition of selected works from the school that will be set up in early March at the Greater Reston Arts Center.
"I think that the kids are exceptionally talented and very expressive," said art teacher Eileen Murphy, while walking through the wire towers set up to hang some of the pieces of art. "I don't know what to credit that to, whether it's the diversity of the school or what, but we have a wealth of talent and creativity here at Herndon High School."
HERNDON'S ART department consists of four full-time teachers and 21 classes, according to Murphy. While deciding to take art class is a voluntary decision for students, as they are elective courses, they consistently fill to maximum capacity with approximately 20 percent of Herndon High School students taking one each semester, she added.
"I think with all of the students striving in a very competitive environment for higher GPAs that this is something where the students can relax and find an outlet for their creative sides," Murphy said. "A lot of times they don't have the opportunity to take risks in their other classes like they can with artwork, and we try and give them that option here."
Herndon's Art Department offers classes in a number of different artistic mediums, such as sculpture, photography and computer graphics design, according to Murphy. The main philosophy behind the classes is to expose the children to the works of various artists and challenge them to expand, adapt and create new ideas from those pieces, she added.
"I see art as a way for students to look inside themselves and to try and put that in their work," Murphy said. "I think it can help students to become more in-tune with who they are."
Relaxing through self-meditation and working on art projects drew 14-year-old freshman Cassie Christy to take art in her first year at the school. Christy contributed a poinsettia design imprinted in different colored paint to the art show.
"It's a good skill to learn, and at the same time it's a good way to break way from the normal classes," Christy said. "All of the other electives you can do have a lot of work, but this is a relaxing time, I consider it like a break from my day."
STEPPING UP to a small table in the auditorium foyer, 16-year-old junior Andrea Maddox points to an acrylic painting of a sunset behind a cluster of palm trees on a hilly beach.
"We had a snow day not too long ago and I was bored and decided I was missing the beach at that moment," Maddox said as she looked at the painting. "So I whipped out the paints and made this."
The painting wasn't an assignment for her class. For Maddox, learning about and creating art is about breaking from routine and relieving stress.
"I do it for fun, it's something that I can use to get away from my normal day," she said.
Creating art is a necessary and noble undertaking as it keeps life vibrant and people remembering how beautiful things can be, said Reyes.
"I believe there are two things that make us human and those are the ability to create and the ability to be reasonable," she said. "I think that, for me at least, art fills both of those."