Sammamish students make history with their art

Jessie Chen and Matt Ruddell have made history at Sammamish High School. The two are the first winners from the same school in the annual Superintendent’s High School Art Show.

Matt Ruddell (seated) and Jessie Chen show their artistic talents at Sammamish High School.

Jessie Chen and Matt Ruddell have made history at Sammamish High School. The two are the first winners from the same school in the annual Superintendent’s High School Art Show.

In all, nine students from around the state were honored in the 35th annual show.

Both Jessie and Matt received the top honor of Juror’s Choice award presented at a reception this week in Olympia. Their award-winning art will be on display at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for public viewing.

Jessie, a junior at Sammamish, was given the award in the drawing and painting category for her piece “Glass Blown Orchestration.” Sketched in color pencil, her vibrant drawing was inspired by a glass blowing class she took at school.

“I took a beginners glass-blowing class last year and I kind of found it very hard to work with the medium of glass because I wasn’t use to it, but I really liked the outcome of it,” Jesse explained. “I decided that if I can’t blow glass, I’d draw glass.”

Jesse borrowed a variety of vases and paperweights from her teacher and drew a still life, capturing a metaphorical representation of spring.

“In Jesse’s case, she has always had an understanding of that kind of whimsical realism,” said Jason Schell, an art teacher at the school. “She’s had that down for the last few years and has really mastered it.”

Matt entered his art sculpture titled “Hard Wired” after being encouraged by Schell. The art teacher referred to Matt’s sculpture as a good fusion of technical merit and expression.

Using a mold of his own face for the its foundation, Matt used a Japanese firing technique called Raku to give it a rusty appearance. He then used metallic wiring and copper plating on the skull and a piece of re-bar for the neck with metal ties making up the spinal cord.

“My piece is about how the culture tries to subdue creativity and make us all conform to the same thing,” Matt explained. “And so this guy or person or child is hardwired into this one way and the face is dying. It’s like a mechanical and human mix but the human is not living with the uniformity of it.”

The artwork was first judged on a regional level prior to competing with other regional winners on a state level. The 111 high school artists who won their regional shows were invited to attend the reception where the nine state winners were honored.

“It’s so good to see them (the students) recognized by outside judges,” Schell said, who said he is proud of his students and the entire art department at Sammamish High School. “We (the teachers) get to know these students so well we can only be so objective no matter how much training we have. So to see their art validated by outside judges is important.”

The state winners were selected by a group of statewide organizations.

The nine winners will be given a $200 purchase award for inclusion of their work in OSPI’s permanent collection.

The art show reception was part of Arts Education Week that took place this past week. The week, declared by Gov. Chris Gregoire, included many art focused events around the state such as concerts, festivals, school art celebrations and the Superintendent High School Art Show.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at or 425-453-4602.

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