"Variations on a Scream" would be a good subtitle for the painting that won top prize at the fifth annual Howard County public schools' Senior Show, unveiled yesterday at the school system's Clarksville Pike headquarters.
In the painting, a purple-clad Lynn Palewicz stands with her back to a wall, clutching her hair like the handle of a dagger and displaying a gaping mouth that would make Edvard Munch shiver.
What inspired this? Primarily frustration with her artwork -- and also a few bad hair days, said the Mount Hebron High School artist.
The self-portrait, called "Cathartic," and a second, calmer "Blue" self-portrait by Ms. Palewicz are among the more than 50 drawings, paintings, collages and mixed-media works on display the exhibit. The Howard County Arts Council and the public school system are co-sponsors of the show.
"It's easy to represent yourself, but it's a whole new ballgame to create meaning in your work," the 18-year-old Ms. Palewicz said.
Her grandmother -- not a fan of the work -- compared the student's self-portrait to "The Scream," that "disgusting work by Edvard Munch," Ms. Palewicz said.
Ms. Palewicz, whose gentle face belies her rage on canvas, has been accepted by the Rhode Island School of Design and the Maryland Institute, College of Art, which she plans to attend.
Art and the artistic method are the focus of the Senior Show, which was moved this year from its usual venue at the Howard County Center for the Arts, now under renovation.
The works were selected from the work of advanced students by Howard County public school art instructors.
The artworks were only one factor in competition; the students were also judged on written statements about the work's creation.
"I feel a lot more reflection on the part of students," said Barry Shauck, supervisor for the county's art department.
"I see a great amount of reflection in the reasons for choices and expression. It's much less a project product than a personal response."
Ronald X. Roberson, chairman of the visual arts department at Howard Community College, judged the show.
Gift certificates from Chaselle, a school supplies store. were awarded as prizes.
Ms. Palewicz was awarded a $100 gift certificate.
Two $50 certificate winners are Krystal Nuhn of Oakland Mills High School and Michelle Willis of Hammond High School.
Four $25 certificate winners are Elisabeth Holloway of Howard High School, Jee Rhee of Mount Hebron High School, Geoff Duckworth of Glenelg High School and Ben Garcia of Wilde Lake High School.
Some works may go on to the Maryland Art Education Student Traveling Exhibit or the late spring show at The Mall in Columbia.
"It's growing, but it's becoming incredibly competitive and selective," said Jennifer Motruk, the arts council's programs manager, said of the Senior Show.
The show is accompanied by a second one, the Portfolio Preparation exhibit, in which students in their third year of art studies display several works at various stages of their creation.
The Portfolio Preparation exhibit occurs when students are developing portfolios for acceptance into art colleges or advanced placement courses.
Mr. Shauck said that the students tackle a certain study, skill or medium.
"You can see a real progression," he said.
Part of the portfolio preparation requirements include writing exercises.
"By asking them to write about the work, they reveal more about themselves as an artist as well as a student," Ms. Motruk said.
Both shows are on display during "Youth Art Month," a national celebration of art education and its importance.
Howard County public library's central and Owen Brown branches will display student art work for the month.
The fifth annual Senior Show and Portfolio Preparation for College exhibit will be on display from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays until March 30 at the Howard County public schools' office, 10910 Route 108, Ellicott City. Admission is free. Information: 313-ARTS.