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‘Art in the Union’ contest winners honored at reception

“Angry College Students,” by third-year psychology student Jin Ong, is one of the many original submissions by UCLA students to the annual Art In the Union contest. The Kerckhoff Art Gallery is currently showcasing this year’s submissions, which range from drawings and paintings to photographs.
(Lexy Atmore/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Regina Napolitano

April 30, 2014 12:00 a.m.

A white, plaster bust of a man juts out from a surface covered in newspaper headlines. His face appears to be in agony, a small nail is drilled through his eye and a collar encases his neck. His fist clutches a $20 bill, his neck is held back by a newspaper headline that reads “Budget Cuts,” while his mouth is gagged with a cheeseburger wrapper.

This multimedia piece, “Angry College Students” by third-year psychology student Jin Ong, is one of the many original submissions by UCLA students to the annual Art in the Union contest. This year, four of the pieces from the 24 student submissions on display in the Kerckhoff Hall Art Gallery were selected to win by a panel of judges including UCLA students, ASUCLA employees and ASUCLA board members. A reception to honor the winners will be held tonight from 3 to 5 p.m. The winning submissions will also be permanently displayed in Kerckhoff Hall, Ackerman Union and other locations on campus.

Roy Champawat, the director of the UCLA Student Union, said that ever since ASUCLA began showcasing student artwork in 1972, the purpose of the Art in the Union contest and previous art contests has been to celebrate the expression of UCLA students.

“The space is really about students … so (student art) is the appropriate thing to hang on the walls,” Champawat said.

Chapawat also said that ASUCLA likes to leave the contest requirements very open in order to encourage the widest possible array of student expression. Submissions were accepted from April 7 through April 11, and winning entries were chosen on April 28.

This year’s entries include everything from colorful textiles to naturalistic photographs. Among this year’s selected winners are “Imperfect” by Tayler Booth, a vibrant, abstract rainbow print, and a charcoal portrait called “Blanco y Negro” by Vanessa Rodriguez Barrera. The other winning pieces are a portrait painting named “Strange Birds” by André Comtois and “Insight,” a small black-and-white portrait painting by Ruth Xu.

Ong, the author of “Angry College Students,” created his piece two years ago and said it is inspired by both the consumerism that he thinks permeates our society and the student protests he witnessed at California State University, Northridge. Ong said that the work’s subject is someone who wants to speak out and express himself, but is totally prevented by society’s constraints.

Ong said that he doesn’t care about the outcome of the contest and instead views it as a way to express his opinions about politics and the economy.

“It was hanging in the garage, but my mom hated it and thought it was gruesome and ugly, so this contest was a great opportunity to show my work and share my ideas,” he said.

Another submission, “Construction,” is an abstract painting that includes negative space, contour lines and recognizable traffic objects. The work’s author, Adara Lui, is a third-year fine arts student. She said she was excited to submit her piece because of the opportunity to display her work permanently at UCLA.

Lui, who is graduating this year, said “Construction” is a reflection on her two main experiences at UCLA: participating in Chinese lion dancing and being stuck in traffic on the 405 Freeway. The painting expresses this through depictions of traffic lights, the head of a lion costume and construction signs similar to the ones used on the freeway.

“This painting is like my final good-bye to UCLA,” Liu said.

Champawat said the Art in the Union contest preserves the unique works of UCLA students like Liu.

“The beauty of the Art in the Union program,” Champawat said, “is that each generation of students can leave part of their expression behind.”

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