USC Roski Student’s Painting Appears at Smithsonian

USC News November 22, 2011

By Alexis Kaneshiro

USC Roski School of Fine Arts student Emily McPeek was one of 15 artists selected for Momentum: A National Juried Exhibition for Emerging Artists With Disabilities, Ages 16-25, which is on view at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington, D.C., through Jan. 22.

In addition to being chosen as a finalist from more than 120 submissions, McPeek won the first-prize award of $10,000.

For the past 10 years, the International Organization on Arts and Disability (VSA) and Volkswagen Group of America Inc., have teamed up to recognize and showcase emerging artists with disabilities, from the ages 16 to 25, who are living in the United States. The annual exhibition presents the diverse viewpoints and creative processes of emerging artists as they gain momentum in their artistic trajectories.

This year, the VSA sent more than 20,000 calls for entry to nationwide high schools and colleges, inviting submissions that illustrated the theme of momentum. Participants were asked to investigate the driving force behind their creative work.

McPeek responded with “Women Praying,” an oil painting meshing realism with cartoonish exaggerations that distort and reshape figures and forms. Capping the distended bodies are halos, which function as a tool to transform her paintings into icons. While not explicitly religious or unreligious, the paintings-as-icons reflect the artist’s love for humankind.

McPeek, who has Tourette syndrome, said she paints to illuminate her subject matter’s divinity and inherent beauty, even, as the artist noted, that “they have an oddity about themselves as I do. Human beings are imperfect, but that is exactly what makes them great.”