Mary Garrison’s love for art was awakened by a project to creatively use recycled materials.
The South Carroll High School sophomore had never created a sculpture before, but took inspiration from her love of horseback riding and her 8-year-old retired race horse, Cali, to build “Golden Mare,” a piece made with a copper wire frame draped in golden bracelets.
So she was surprised when “Golden Mare” won the Best in Show award at the 2018 Rethink Recycling Sculpture Contest sponsored by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
“It was actually the last award called,” Garrison, 16, told the Times last week, “and I was very surprised. I wasn’t expecting that at all. There were a lot of sculptures there that I thought were much better than mine so I was really surprised.”
She won a Dell laptop and stylus, as well as four behind-the-scenes tickets to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
Adrianna Wood, an 11th-grader from Century High School, combined her love for sports and skills in craftsmanship to create the People’s Choice Award-winning sculpture.
The piece, titled “Screw It, I’m Going to L.A.” is a portrait of basketball legend LeBron James made from screws fastened to a recycled wooden board. The heights of the screws and different values of paint bring the athlete’s face into relief.
“To drill in every single screw … I’m very grateful for the experience. I have a new appreciation, especially for art that requires labor-intensive work,” Wood said.
For Garrison, “[The project involved] a lot of taking apart, and redoing, and changing my idea,” she said. “I definitely looked up to my art teacher to know what to do because it was my first time ever doing a sculpture like that or any sculpture at all.”
Her teacher, Lisa Katz, said she knew the horse would be an amazing sculpture when she saw Garrison’s piece coming together from brackets from an old ceiling fan, a bunch of metal pieces, necklaces, cardboard, wire and a drawer handle.
“I could see the skeleton of it was taking shape,” Katz told the Times, “so I could see proportionally that it was good, technically good, and she just really took it to the next level with the mane and all the different chains that she hung.”
Katz said she is known at South Carroll as being the “junk lady,” and that under her guidance students from South Carroll have won awards at the MDE contest for 12 of the past 14 years.
“Nobody throws anything out around here without asking me first,” Katz said.
Garrison said she got the idea to use the necklaces and bracelets for her gilded horse when she saw a sculpture on a Google search with a mane made of corkscrews.
And she said it was Katz’s supply of various knickknacks that made up the majority of her sculpture.
“A couple days after we started the project, she brought out different containers organized by color,” Garrison said. “I saw a bin of different gold jewelry and I thought it was absolutely perfect.”
What she couldn’t find in the classroom, she was able to pull together from home, she said, and she finished it off with gold spray paint.
“She did it all on her white desk,” said the young artist’s mother, Diana Garrison. “And it’s no longer white.
“To see the beginning to the end of it,” she said, “it was quite a work of art for her to make that in her small room on her desk.”
Garrison said after only having taken two art classes throughout her time in public school and being home-schooled, she was able to rediscover her creativity through her ode to Cali.
Plus, art is in her blood, she said, considering her father is an artist and her oldest brother — who participated in the Rethink Recycling Sculpture Contest when he was in high school — went to Towson University for graphic design.
“This sculpture, I feel like it did re-spark my love for art, and actually doing it,” she said, “because I have always loved art and drawing and all of that, and I haven't done much of it [except] at home, outside of school.”
Wood crafted her sculpture during an honors commercial art class, and after it was chosen as one of the top three from Century, it moved on to the statewide contest. Wood was surprised and pleased by the positive reactions she got from others at the contest reception in Baltimore.
Ben Grumbles, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, even said he would buy the sculpture if he could, she said.
Working with recycled materials was “intriguing,” she said, and the limitations even helped to spark her creativity. She came up with the idea of making a portrait of James after he announced the opening of the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Wood hopes to pursue sports marketing in the future and will attend the Carroll County Career and Technology Center’s print production program.
Her art teacher, Nicole Diem, said, “Her sculpture was unique in design and structure, her craftsmanship spot on. That piece took quite a while to create and Adrianna was diligent in her pursuit to finish and finish well. She really loves sports and her work is usually tied to a famous athlete, so this was a piece that she was really excited to work on and complete.”
“I’m proud of my art and to represent Century in a positive way,” Wood said. “Female sports artists I feel like are rare.”
When learning a new craft or working with unfamiliar materials, persistence is key as well as passion, she said. “Give it a go and really take the time to work on it.”
“I am happy that she won an award... her work ethic alone [could] grant her the award,” Diem said.
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The reception in Baltimore showcased 62 entries from 23 schools across the state. The contest has been held since 2001.