Charlotte Xu '20 was honored this month at the 30th annual Connecticut Regional Scholastic Art Awards, the largest juried student art exhibition in the state. Five of Xu’s photographs and one painting were selected by a blue ribbon panel of professional artists and university art faculty to be included in a statewide exhibition in the University of Hartford’s Silpe Gallery from January 13 through February 1.
Xu received three Silver Key Awards for Photography, two Honorable Mention Awards for Photography and one Honorable Mention for Painting. The high-level exhibition is an affiliate of the National Scholastic Art Awards.
“It’s an honor to be able to be selected,” said Xu, who began taking photographs four years ago using a digital camera that belonged to her parents. Her intention at the time was simply to capture some memorable images of her home in Shanghai before coming to The Gunnery. As a student here, she continued to nurture her interest in the arts, which expanded to include painting. She is currently a student in AP Studio Art and Technique and Artistry, a co-curricular program.
In an interview, Xu said she typically seeks out colors when she is taking photographs, and “little details that people don’t normally notice,” like the pair of vases tucked along a blue wall she photographed in Morocco. Her subject matter has been influenced by South Asian art forms related to Buddhism and Hinduism, which she has studied while volunteering in Morocco, Nepal and Japan. Xu, who plans to major in anthropology and religion in college, brings her camera along with her to capture scenes like the colorful huddle of boats she discovered at Phewa Lake in Pokhara, the second-largest city in Nepal.
She won a Silver Key Award for “Nirvana,” her photograph of Buddhist monks seated outside of a monastery in Nepal, and another Silver Key for “Senbontorii,” which was taken in Kyoto, Japan, on an early morning walk to a temple. The image draws the viewer in through rows of bright orange “doors,” each decorated with the name of an individual person or company and the date. They are said to bring good luck. “Usually it’s packed with people,” she said of the location, which is on a mountainside. “It almost looks like a tunnel.”
On her trip to Morocco, she captured a view of the leather tanneries in Fez. The photo was taken from a rooftop and if you look closely, you can see bundles of leather waiting to be dyed by hand and a worker standing inside one of the pots. “The colors are all really great. What they’re doing is really hard but it’s the traditional way,” she said of the photograph titled “Jars of Life,” which also won a Silver Key Award.
Xu said she felt a connection to the Buddhist monks in “Nirvana,” and although they did not share a common language, she was able to request permission from them to take the photograph. “It’s peaceful for me to even look at this photo,” she said, noting that it is named for the highest level of inner peace that a Buddhist seeks to achieve. “I actually prefer to take portraits over landscapes. It’s also harder, but I’m looking for the interpersonal connection.”
Approximately 3,000 entries from students in grades 7 through 12 at public, private and parochial schools across the state were submitted to the 2020 Connecticut Scholastic Art Awards Program. Nearly 620 works were accepted for the annual exhibit at the University of Hartford. Gold and Silver Key and Honorable Mention awards were presented in 17 categories.