Artist speaks out against hate in competition

Nearly 130 high school students competed for top prizes

Cedar Springs sophomore Chloe Grifhorst, left, displays her winning artwork, ‘Hate,’ inspired by the crude comments she and her fellow students have heard. She won the Most Powerful category in her school’s third-annual art competition. At right, freshman Brendan Marshall won the Best Overall category with his pencil rendering called ‘Pere Honorable’

Cedar Springs sophomore Chloe Grifhorst said the inspiration for her winning artwork in a schoolwide competition came from the crude comments she and her classmates hear on a daily basis.

Her artwork, entitled “Hate, won the Most Powerful category in her school’s third-annual art competition held in January.

After interviewing students, her winning artwork was created by typing and printing out the responses on a full sheet of paper, watercoloring them, and then cutting and pasting them onto the canvas. It is entirely composed of hateful words and phrases, either from students’ current or past experiences.

“All of the words in this portrait are real things that people have said to one another, either comments that I have heard or that people have told me,” said Chloe, who wants to work in the medical field in the future. “I enjoy helping others and I just want to make a difference.”

In her description accompanying her artwork, Chloe stated that the emotion was real and raw, and portrays the common hate in the world.

“I asked people what the meanest thing someone has ever said to them was,” she stated. “Not only did I get to see all of the hate that exists just in Cedar Springs, but I saw sunken faces when people went through all of their sad memories.”

A few examples of phrases she included: “You are such a waste of life.” “Nobody would ever like you.” “I hate you and so does everyone else.” “You live in one of those trash trailer parks.” “Everyone would love it if you killed yourself.”

Chloe said she wanted her work to convey how much damage such comments can do.

“I made an innocent face of a girl through these words to show how so much hate can eventually define you. Not because others see you as these hateful words, but the constant degrading can eventually lead you to your breaking point shown in this piece.”

All Art Students Take Part 

For one week in January, 127 artists filled the front hallways of Cedar Springs High School with artwork of many styles and colors.

“Each artist currently enrolled in an art class chooses their favorite piece from the semester, writes an artist statement about it and bravely puts it on display for their fellow classmates,” said art teacher Jennifer Swift. “This year we had close to 100% participation.”

The winners were voted on electronically by students, parents and the community. Click on the links to see each piece.

Best Overall: “Pere Honorable”

The youngest of the winners, freshman Brendan Marshall, won the Best Overall category with this delicate pencil rendering of a vintage locomotive.  

“I was happy, but what surprised me is the fact that I won over so many other amazing artworks by other students,” said Brendan, who plays football and shows goats in 4-H as well. “My parents said I loved to draw when I was little.

“I feel super confident in pencil drawings and this time I made my artwork bigger not only for a better challenge, but to capture all aspects and every small detail.”

He chose to draw the Pere Marquette, calling it the most honored steam train in the world, which also is used in the movie “The Polar Express.” His artwork was created using only an HB2 pencil.

“Instead of adding any darkness or shadows, taking those away may take some realism out, but it shows what is behind all of the darkness that you would see, because otherwise it would be a boring dark area,” he stated in his description.

Senior Laine Vanderlugt won the Most Original category with her artwork ‘Equivocal’

Most Original: “Equivocal” 

Senior Laine Vanderlugt won the Most Original category with this colorful and imaginative portrait. 

“I love using a ton of color; it makes nearly anything look pretty,” Laine said. “I drew this because I like putting emotion in people’s faces that I draw while also putting emotion into the picture as a whole. 

“I feel accomplished knowing my art is being recognized and appreciated. I’ve been making art my whole life, as long as I can remember.”

Her description stated that she created the person to look both masculine and feminine.

“My hope was that viewers would get different interpretations of the work and it could spark interesting conversation.”

Senior Layla Kren won Best Photograph with her image called ‘A Different Perspective’

Best Photograph: “A Different Perspective”

Senior Layla Kren won Best Photograph with this kaleidoscopic self-portrait.

“We were assigned self-portraits for homework and while thinking of ideas, I thought of the glass triangular prism my dad gave me for pictures and started creating cool mirrored effects with it,” said Layla, who plans to study photography and film in college.

All the students’ artworks will soon be displayed in the high school office.

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Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more. Read Cris's full bio or email Cris.

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