Austere yet serene, D.C. Superior Court's Chief Judge Eugene N. Hamilton gazes down at visitors to the jurors' lounge in the H. Carl Moultrie I Courthouse in Northwest Washington. Draped in the standard black robe of all judges, he rests his hands on his knees and offers a gentle smile, punctuated by a striking silver goatee.
This portrait, painted by Anthony Ebo, a graduating senior at Luke C. Moore Academy, won first place in the D.C. Superior Court's Sixth Annual Juried Art Exhibition for area high school students. The competition is sponsored by the courts and presided over by a panel of area artists and art patrons.
The winning entries will grace the walls of the jurors' lounge for the next three months. An opening ceremony to honor the artists was held June 10th.
In welcoming remarks at the opening, Judge Zinora Mitchell-Rankin said the event was "an opportunity for our court to display what is only a portion of the young talent in the city."
The exhibit showcases the work of students from 12 area schools. As in years past, Duke Ellington Senior High School students dominated the awards ceremony, plucking up half the prizes. Ebo, the first-place winner, received a $1,000 savings bond. The three second-place finishers each won savings bonds of $750, and the five third-place finishers got $500 bonds.
Ebo, who will attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania this fall, said he was struck by Hamilton's commitment to the community, especially to children, and wanted to capture that in his artwork. "I wanted to compile everything into one picture," he said.
The painting is not merely a portrait of the judge but, in fact, a montage of several other images, including one of high school graduates in caps and gowns.
The works in the exhibit are done in various media, including collages and linoleum prints.
LeChaun Linthicum, an Ellington student, attempted a cubist still-life depiction titled "Sunflowers" and won third place.
Also awarded third place was Bell Multicultural Senior High student Jenny Nunez, whose untitled piece depicts two Hispanic youths, one with his arm draped on the other. Etched in the eyes of one is a look of grave desperation, and in the other a menacing glare.
Nunez infuses raw emotion into her work, as does Ellington's Jeffrey Wright, whose acrylic painting "Uta Hajen" essentially steals the show. Wright has adorned the jurors' lounge with a larger-than-life starlet leaning against a wall. One bony arm spans across the canvas and the other rests on her hip defiantly. A myriad of multicolored lights dance upon her long, flowing dress and on her face, which she averts from the spotlight.
Other works on display include two pieces by Jeffrey Mendez from School Without Walls. Though both are landscapes, they are starkly different. "Silver: Sssssss" is composed of horizontal layers: Black earth flows into a purple horizon emblazoned with thin silver-white clouds. Hauntingly barren trees mark the foreground. In "Like A Jungle," Mendez proves he is as comfortable with oils as he is with acrylics. The subjects of this work are swathed in shadows. A leopard, a giraffe, an antelope, a gorilla and a cheetah rest around a tree, against a background of yellow, red, and blue layers.
"I was trying to capture atmosphere," Mendez said. Pointing to "Silver: Sssssss," he said, "I used cooler colors, like black and silver, in that one."
Prompted by a teacher to enter the competition, Mendez said that he was not particularly interested in painting people, "painting trees is more natural."
Ellington's Matia Ward takes a different approach with an untitled piece done in oil crayons in which four youths pose in a forest, one with arms akimbo, another with hands in pockets, another crouching. While her subjects are imbued with a sense of calm, Ward's zeal is unquestionable.
Ward, the daughter of artists, has been painting since the second grade, and the junior plans to attend art school after graduating. Like other Ellington students attending the opening ceremonies, Ward expressed a deep appreciation for her school, saying that one day she would like to teach art at Ellington.
This school spirit comes through unabashedly in other works on display, including Derrick Byrd's prize-winning "Sir Duke Ellington," a linoleum print in which Ellington, dressed in a tuxedo lined with piano keys, eyes the viewer seductively. Salim Hylton's linoleum-cut "Duke Makes the World Go Round," which was one of the three second-place pieces, depicts planets and stars dwarfed completely by a rendering of Ellington's head.
The works will be exhibited through September in the jurors' lounge in the courthouse, an area through which thousands of District residents will pass in the coming months.
CAPTION: Judge Annice M. Wagner, center, Kia Cox, right, and Georgetta Cox, far right, view student art at D.C. Superior Court's sixth annual exhibit.