2014-2015 Honorable Mention Entries

Posted by & filed under Challenge.

All of the language and art are represented here as submitted by the entrant.

Resurrection of Art by Andrew Connelly | Easthampton High School | Easthampton, MA

My submission to the Beautiful Minds “Creation Out of Destruction” Challenge is entitled “Resurrection of Art”. I took inspiration for my piece from the artwork of Joan Miró. Miró’s art went through a phase he titled as “assassination of art”, in which he showed the cruel realities of life in his paintings, by burning, cutting, or even pouring tar onto his canvas. This created sour, yet somehow beautiful pieces, where the destruction of the canvas created a texture and depth that traditional painting could not achieve.

For my submission, I extended upon my prior knowledge of Joan Miró’s art career, and learned more of the history behind his destructive artwork. I also learned about different definitions of the word “destruction”. By asking my subjects to write any sort of words that they associated with destruction, I was able to observe how their ideas of “destructive” words differed from the words I thought of as “destructive”. In addition, I got to observe how they thought of different ways to turn their canvas beautiful than I would have thought of. I was able to use the Beautiful Minds Challenge to learn about the beauty within the minds of my peers, which was a very interesting experience.

Finally, I was able to truly create beauty out of destruction. This was the best learning experience, because although it was the objective, I hoped to achieve in the end, to successfully create works that I was proud of taught me much about both art and the way we as humans see the world.

“EXHIBITIONS.” MoMA. N.p., 2 Nov. 2008. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.
“JoanMiro.net.” Joan Miro Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.
Johnson, Ken. “Filtering Miró’s Work Through a Political Sieve.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.
Kennicott, Philip. “Joan Miro: The Ladder of Escape.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 6 May 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.
Kramer, Hilton. “The New Criterion.” Miró’s paradox: what happened after the “death of painting” by Hilton Kramer -. Version 7. N.p., 1 Jan. 1989. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.

Project Zero by Janelle Kesner | Gann Academy | Lexington, MA

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” – Steve Maraboli

My goal is to create something out of destruction.

Project Zero, Turning Patient Zero Into Zero Patients.

I learned that the media has an overwhelming thumbprint on the pulse of how people are informed. Their thumbprint helps shape our understanding and interest. Had I not had a personal connection to what was happening in West Africa, I too would have shaped my understanding solely on the viewpoint of the media. When my brother Kieran, a photojournalist, went to capture the effect of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, fear immediately enveloped our family.

Kieran was vulnerable to something that could potentially change our lives forever. An invisible threat overwhelmed us.  
Fear for his safety was a major concern but our family learned many things about Ebola and its destruction, before, during and after his time in West Africa. From life-saving supplies to understanding how to navigate Liberian culture all contributed to my understanding of this destructive virus. Kieran documented real people that were truly suffering and he risked his life to do it. Had I relied solely on the media I would never have understood the devastating impact Ebola has had. This knowledge and The Beautiful Minds Challenge gave me a reason to do something more.

Continue reading Janelle’s submission by clicking the PDF link below:

Janelle_Kesner-Beautiful_Mind___Janelle_Kesner (opens PDF in a new window)

Don’t Fear Decay, It Happens Every Day by Marta Piper | Community High School | Ann Arbor, MI

Marta_Piper-Self_Portrait_LeavesThis piece is a self portrait made of leaves that I collected as I walked to school. Leaves slowly decay and over time, so the leaves forming my face in the portrait will decay too, just like what will happen to all living things eventually. Decomposition is a very slow sort of destruction, one that can take decades or centuries to complete. This is exactly why I like it so much. I takes a while to decompose a plant or animal after it dies and nothing can be done to stop the process. It can be delayed and it can also be sped up, but the slow destruction of organic matter will always win in the end.

I picked out the leaves for this piece earlier this fall when the leaves were just falling. I picked up whatever leaf I thought looked particularly beautiful and when I got to school and sat in class, I had the idea to make the leaves into something instead of just watching them disintegrate on my bedroom floor with all the other random things I pick up on my walks. I wanted to make these leaves into something and let that something breakdown naturally, slowly destroying the art I worked to make. As you can tell, I really like ginkgo leaves because I had enough to make the whole background out of only them. They fascinate me because the ginkgo tree is one of the oldest types of tree to survive this long, dating back millions of years. But that was just an added bonus to my piece seeing as I wasn’t really paying attention to what leaves I was picking up at the time.

I find it so fascinating that the slow break down of these leaves will lead to the inevitable destruction of this piece of art. If I had chosen plastic leaves, the meaning of the piece would be drastically different because plastics take decades longer to even start to decay compared to leaves which can decay in a few years. Of course using synthetically created leaves would guarantee a long lasting piece, but I was willing to give up this piece of art to be able to see it decompose right in front of my own eyes. I decided to take a picture of the piece every few months to record the slow process until the leaves are completely gone, or as close as possible seeing as the glue may affect the speed of the decomposition process. I took this picture of the piece a week after I finished it. I could already see that the pigmentation was much duller and the leaves were becoming more brittle and some even broke off when I moved it, which is why it already looks patchy. I love how fragile the whole piece is because it reminds me that when I die I will be ever so slowly broken down just like these leaves that I arranged to look like me.

The me made of leaves and the me made of flesh will both eventually decompose to become soil where new life will grow from our old nutrients which is such a humbling thing to think of because no matter what we are, we will all just decompose and be formed into something new. In the end it doesn’t matter how many people you dated, what clothes you wore, or that you ate a lot of food all the time because we will all just be slowly destroyed by our own bacteria when we die so we can give one last thing to the planet we lived on. It doesn’t even matter what animal or plant you were because all our molecules will just mix up and form a new home for others to grow.

I chose to make it a self portrait because the way I feel about decomposition is very personal. I love to think that my inevitable destruction will fuel new life. I don’t know of many others who feel this way, so I made it of myself so I can see my self decompose as leaves and know that I’ll do that someday and maybe one of the trees I used leaves from to create this piece will grow from where I was buried. People have told me it’s morbid and weird to think like this, but I disagree. I believe that we shouldn’t fear the destruction and instead embrace it because it happens to literally every living thing. It shouldn’t be a scary thing to give back to the planet that raised you. You are ensuring life in the future just as all living things that decayed before you did to give you this life.

The Destruction of a Beautiful Mind by Tatianna Noriega | North Kingstown High School | North Kingstown, RI

Living in a world where the need to be perfect outweighs the need to love ourselves, our imperfections can cause us to tear ourselves down. Eating away at you from the inside out, all of your short comings and inadequacies are magnified under your own scrutinizing eyes. I was all too familiar with destruction when I was presented with the prompt for the Beautiful Minds challenge. However the destruction I see every day is not the kind you see on the late night news or the product of earthquakes and war. I see it in girls who stare in their mirrors and pinch the skin around their waist telling themselves they are not beautiful. You can see it in the bloodshot eyes of a student who has pushed themselves to brink and cares more about their GPA than their health. I see it in myself and others who take their talents and smother them under fear of rejection and ridicule. All while telling ourselves the lie that we are not good enough. Victims of self-destruction often become victims for life, and rarely break the chains that hold them back. Self-destruction accounts for the average of one suicide every 40 seconds and the 1 in 10 adults that suffer from depression. I believe that we all have something to offer this world and the prompt given for this challenge inspired me to show just that.

As an artist I spend much of my time trying to create a piece of work that conveys my thoughts and emotions. However many of these projects are scraped and buried deep within my closet. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES  The more time I spend on a piece the more I start to hate everything about it. My mind becomes a destructive force that strangles my self-confidence and picks apart details that I was originally proud of. It is not long before the magnitude of my self-loathing becomes a treacherous sea, and like a cowardice captain I abandon my sinking ship. However I decided to take a new approach. Using pieces of my shipwreck, I decided to create something new. I dived to the depths of my closet and dredged up my old, forgotten, and failed art pieces. To complete this challenge I set to work to create a sculpture, from the product
of my self-destruction, which I felt embodied the mystic and stunning splendor of a beautiful mind that every person has to offer. Using old canvas frames I painted them gold and arranged them in a way that I felt represented the complexity of thought and imagination. Using pages from books that I had used in previous sculptures I crafted flowers, butterflies, and the wings of various creatures. The pages represent the power that words can have and if you let them they can blossom into unexpected beauty, lifting hopes and dreams to new heights. Out of old clay I sculpted a dragon and snake. These creatures and other reptiles are often connected to the idea of destruction and evil. I wanted to use this as an opportunity to show that destruction can be manipulated, much like clay, into something beautiful and it can often offer a clean sleight and new perspective. Inspired by the video prompt’s mention of a phoenix, the last piece of my sculpture was a small bird. Birds are representation of hope and courage and in this piece the bird’s petite size is a reminder that any amount of faith in yourself will result in success.

Although I created this sculpture to be an inspiration and reminded to others of what they are capable of and the wonder they hold, this became a challenge and reminder for myself. I became Atlas every time I picked up my paint brush
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES and I felt the sky being placed upon my shoulders. My mind became a war-zone and peace was non-negotiable. Too many times I felt like waving the white flag and surrendering to my misgivings. However I stayed strong and held my ground during enemy fire. If I did not finish this sculpture I was saying that the beautiful minds lost to our own self-destructive forces are collateral damage. We can be our own worst enemy and I had to prove that we can make peace with ourselves and create something wonderful.

The challenge and journey that the Beautiful Minds contest offered me a way not only to show that something can be created out of destruction, but it also allowed me to grow as a person. Moments like that are too few and far and I am truly grateful for the opportunity.

Cathedral Pine by Yasi Zeichner | Vermont Technical College | Northfield, VT

Yasi_Zeichner-Cathedral_Pine1Before writing the Cathedral Pine essay, I’d never thought I could find so much good in the destruction of a fallen tree. Whenever I see a huge deadfall like that Cathedral Pine, I am in awe of its size when seen on the ground, and of the incredible force it must have taken to tear those roots out of the Earth. But until now, I have mostly seen the surface value of the destruction, and not the deeper and long-term benefits that can occur.

Yasi_Zeichner-Cathedral_Pine4The most beautiful thing to me about the Cathedral Pine is that it keeps giving, through its destruction. It continues to provide for the needs of the resident wildlife. And the kids on the land at the EarthWalk nature program love that tree; not a week goes by that they don’t visit it. I am now in awe of the hidden beauty in this fallen pine; the intricate root pattern that was hidden below the ground, and the new value that it brings to that place in the woods for both animals and people.
Isn’t this how all life should be? A cycle; a continuation of giving, even after death.

Yasi_Zeichner-Cathedral_Pine3  Zeichner_Cathedral_Pine_Essay (opens PDF in a new window)

The Next Generation by Emily Golchini | Brookfield Academy | Brookfield, WI

Technology is frequently viewed as a destructive force on our younger generations. When “Google” searches override grabbing a history book and physically researching information, there is no denying that skills such as manual research and reading are becoming less necessary in our current day society. Although these skills can be argued necessary for supreme intelligence, the skills technology teaches us such as socializing and responsibility are also life lessons and skills that can be argued equally beneficial. During the production of this art piece, I’ve learned to see both point of views through the eyes of both sides, the younger and the older generations.

Like anything else, technology has its pros and cons; technology can be destructive, but in most cases the positive effects outweigh the destruction. If the computer screens and iPhone start buttons were solely hurtful, the majority of parents wouldn’t let their children or even themselves to be buried into these screens for an average of two and a half hours every day. We argue and blame technology for our dysfunctional relationships and immobile children, but without these screens, who’s to say the same problems wouldn’t find other methods to arise?

Technology is growth and change, and it has been this way since the Enlightenment Era: change is always scary at first, but who’s to say it isn’t for the best?

Autumn Angel by Angela Hertel | Christ Church Episcopal School | Greenville, SC

Angela_Hertel-artdes3finalI think that my submission is beautiful because it takes a hard situation and turns it into a metaphor for processes in nature. Instead of looking at a downfall in my life as something that only happens once and has to be completely devastating, I changed my perspective and started thinking of it like falling leaves. In order for spring to come, winter must take its course. Things may seem completely destroyed, but that ultimately yields to an even more strikingly beautiful comeback. I think that I captured this quite well in constructing a pair of wings with autumn leaves. With the broken pieces of my downfall, I managed to fly.

Angela_Hertel-artdes2final Angela_Hertel-artdes1final Angela_Hertel-1526908_10205646359864290_3363182622553771704_n_1

Epiphany by Luisa Andrade| Escola Parque | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“We celebrated every moment
of our meetings as epiphanies,
just we two in the whole world.
Bolder, lighter than a bird’s wing,
you hurtled like vertigo
down the stairs, leading
through moist lilac to your realm
beyond the mirror (…).”

-Arseny Tarkovsky, “First Meetings”.

When having an aesthetical experience, all of our rational faculties seem turbid in a kind of ecstasy. As we feel so intensively, it becomes hard to grasp the origin of our pleasure and consequently, we get to regard those incredible instants as unexplainable. But even though it is hard to understand the cause of our feelings, there are some important questions that I feel that should be answered. First of all, why do we feel pleasure in aesthetical experiences? What is the origin of our pleasure? Moreover, is there something that repeats itself in every experience, like a foundation for all aesthetics?

Let’s imagine a scene. We are now in the countryside; we lie down on the grass and look above to the starry night sky. We so realize how numerous and infinite the stars seem, and we feel thrilled by this realization. It is really fascinating that we feel a calm and true pleasure during this moment, as we could rather feel torment by the star`s infiniteness. The reason for this is that we feel that although it is impossible for us to grasp all this hugeness and have a complete image of all the existing stars, we can still think about them. We get to realize how limited our cognitive faculties are, but for a brief second we get to feel that our imagination isn’t. This experience repeats itself throughout time, when we look at a calm sea with an infinite horizon or when we look at huge mountains that also seem beyond our rational possibilities. In these experiences with the infinite, it is as if we could fully imagine this infinite object and so, transcend our intellectual or rational limitations.

Immanuel Kant, 18th century philosopher, conceptualized this experience as the sublime and, specifically the one with the infinite, as the mathematical sublime. We can say that the experience of the sublime is that in which we get to transcend our own physical or intellectual limitations throughout ideas or moral feelings. In the mathematical, in which we get to transcend our intellectual limitations, we find nature to be impossible to represent, but, still, we get a momentary feeling of transcendence throughout our imagination.

Moreover, Kant also conceptualized a different kind of sublime: the dynamic sublime. For him, the dynamic sublime occurs when we experience the transcendence of our own physical dependence when facing a huge power. For instance, let`s imagine that I am under a heavy thunderstorm and that there is a friend next to me who is even more terrified than I am. Although this very huge power that lies beneath the clouds can do almost anything against me, it can`t do anything to my morality or my love for my friend. In this sense, even though I can also be trembling at the thought of a thunder, I can still protect my friend and help him to relax; telling him that it all will be fine. In this regard, the dynamic sublime is the experience in which we get in touch with our own empirical limitations and, at the same time, it is as if we could transcend these physical limits throughout love or morality. We get to forget that we are physically limited, because we can only feel our rational or moral elevation. Even though we`re still mortal, weak and fearful, during the fragile and incredible moment of the sublime, it is as if these limitations do not really exist and we get to feel that we can expand ourselves infinitely.

So we find that there is an answer for the questions I asked in the beginning: why do we feel pleasure in aesthetical experiences? In his conceptualization, Kant found something universal that explained the origin of our pleasure: the sensation of transcendence. But what about the second question, regarding the foundation of all aesthetical experiences?

In the first example, while experiencing the mathematical sublime, we forgot about how limited we really are and how our rationality fails to grasp all the hugeness in the universe. In the second example, while experiencing the dynamic sublime, we got to momentarily destroy all the memories and thoughts about our own weakness and it was in this incredible destruction that we could be thrilled by the experience with the limitless. In this sense, I believe that there is a possible aesthetical foundation: it is the sentence “as if”. But what does it mean, precisely? It means a momentary destruction that allows us to feel the transcendence of our limitations.

This calm destruction allows us to see the world as if it was in accordance to our feelings but it is, in fact, just “as if” it was in accordance. This destruction makes us forget the unbearableness of sorrow in tragedies and makes us believe that, during the sublime, we’re limitless, although we are still fearful and weak. It is a voluntary redemption to our past experiences, a possibility of reconstruction. And it is only when we can allow ourselves to this complete openness and forgetfulness that we can experience something so beautiful.
When I wrote “epiphany” I wanted to retreat this calm and even voluntary destruction. My intention was to grasp a moment of lucid forgetfulness, as I believe this experience repeats itself in every aesthetical sentiment.

I have lived that evening over and over again and now that the poem is written it all seems as one unified moment. A conglomerate of memories becomes one single and fragile instant, maybe not more than two minutes of reading. Tarkovsky, a Russian filmmaker, said that filming for him was sculpting in time. I think that this is true for all arts.

In that brief moment that repeated itself throughout time, it was as if the world opened itself to me. And it seemed so ordered, so calm! Nothing was out of its belonged place, nothing was unknowable or irrational. Everything seemed to reveal itself in its true essence as the evening ended and the sky surrounded us, sheltering the land. There was a feeling of transcendence, especially in alterity. Everything appeared to be suspended from time and space, flowing calmly as if in a light and unreal dream. It was as if nothing had ever happened before, and forgetting about time, I really felt some kind of timelessness.

I’ve lived some moments, not many, as epiphanies. They were instants when I seemed to be lucid and dazed at the same time, yet it all seemed to make such sense! My intention in writing “epiphany” was to capture this very delicate and fragile moment of destruction, in which everything seemed to be resumed in the present instant and the world seemed to be so calm and so full of lightness.

epiphany (click here to open a PDF of Luisa’s poem “Epiphany”)

Trash Cans by Sierra Siebold | Battlefield High School | Haymarket, VA

Sierra_Siebold-DSC00143(1)The classic saying says that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. However, in this particular case, one persons old encyclopedias from the seventies are one another persons collage material. With various advancements in education and access to literature over the years, numerous books such as atlases and encyclopedias have become obsolete due to widespread access of the internet, as most schools encourage online information gathering through databases that are easier to navigate than a large, bulky, outdated book. However, just because the information is quite dated, it does not mean that these old records of information are useless, as they can be used to create images that illustrate our modern day society. Sierra_Siebold-DSC00148

These paint cans have been decorated with these discarded dumpster-bound encyclopedia’s pages in order to display current aspects of our society. These themes include the censorship of art, strain on the environment, space exploration, war, and religion. The usage of these trashed books shows that the information within their pages are not entirely useless.

The Phoenix Effect by Freideric Handelmann| Homer Senior High School | Homer, NY

The phoenix effect is the medical term for a patient pulling out of cardiac arrest or a coma. Such a term descriFreideric_Handelmann-1_concept_sketchesbes exactly what I have come to experience in the course of this project. It has truly been an eye opening experience as I explored the ideas behind both creation and destruction. It has revealed many things, be they new to me or ever present without my recognition. In the end the most important of these to me, and even seemingly life itself, is hope.

I chose to make this project completely out of materials from demolition sites. Recycling the material allowed me to dive even deeper into the power behind this project. Taking something
Freideric_Handelmann-2_hand_in_progressbroken and turning it into something useful or meaningful, it is a powerful feeling. It has made me think in new perspectives of what has, will, and can be. Each piece of this sculpture has its own story to tell and together they are able to convey the message that all hope is not lost, even in the depths of despair some light can shine through.

Freideric_Handelmann-3_Coming_togetherHumans differ from other creatures on this planet in one main way, the capability to hope. Hope is what allows for change, its what drives individuals to make a difference, to stand up for what is right. It is only through hope that creation can come out of destruction. It was what was left at the bottom when Pandora opened the box that allowed people to bear the other evils unleashed. Hope is what this project has taught me.

The sculpture is rich with symbolism, each piece serving
its own part to convey the simple message: never give up hope. The Freideric_Handelmann-4_finalphoenix effect is the epitome of this, a person holds on to hope and is able to pull away from death itself. Hope is a gift, that’s what people need to learn. We are so special in that we can look toward the future with dreams, but we are also so in that these dreams can fall apart. In the end it doesn’t matter the hell raining down upon you, though, lose hope and you’ll lose it all. Hope is life, what’s life without hope?

Stars by Sabrina Konick | 21st Century Cyber Charter School | Philadelphia, PA

Destruction is something that we are taught to fear. From the time we are young we are told it is a form of evil and that nothing ever comes from it. Being who I am and with the family I have, I know this couldn’t be further from the truth. Destruction hurts, but it reveals things in ourselves that other things cannot. Destruction helps to create strength, wisdom, and stronger relationships. My dad nearly dying in a car accident, my poor excuse for self worth when I was younger, and my ADD that has caused so many _MG_7485communication barriers and feelings of isolationism have all been instrumental in the development of my family and myself. Without my Grandfather’s death I would still be hiding my artwork away from the world. Without my bad self worth I would never have been able to become the much stronger person I am today. Without my dad’s accident my family would not be as important and close as it is now. Even the destructive tendencies of my ADD like miscommunication have taught me how amazing the people who try to keep up with me are. I have dealt with both self destruction and destruction from outside forces; while it was unpleasant and painful it made me into a much stronger person. When I heard the prompt for this competition I knew I needed to do something to reflect all the things that destruction has taught me. A few days later I found some old drawing and journals and I noticed that a lot of them were from the darkest times in my _MG_7488life so I wanted to create something with them. When my grandfather died it marked the beginning of the darkest time in my life. One thing I remembered my mom telling us during that time was that his last name meant, “littlest star” so I began to think of all the things that stars make up. They make up galaxies and are essential to create solar systems. They make black holes and the particles of their remains even make up everything here on earth. So maybe every bout of destruction I endured was another star that made up who I am. This sculpture contains hundreds of origami stars from those journals, pictures, and drawings. Those stories and memories are what make me who I am. This project has reminded me of just how far I have come in only a few short years. It has reminded me that the destruction of others also a_MG_7495ffects those around them. This project has enforced the knowledge in me to not be afraid because while destruction may be harmful, good always manages to come of it in one way or another.

Son of a Bitter Divorce by David Miller | William T. Dwyer Community High School | Jupiter, FL

I wrote and created a five minute video titled,Son Of A Bitter Divorce. I started the project worrying that the subject matter, my parents divorce, would be viewed a cliche and disavowed by the folks at Marlboro College. Sixty hours into the project, I found myself so devoted to my little film for myself and for all of the kids out there who bore witness to the crashing and burning of their parents coupledom.

This project allowed me to see my mom and dad as people, not just parents. I got them to talk to me honestly about tough things (though treading lightly so as not to hurt my feelings or incriminate themselves), and I came to realize that neither my mother or father has all of the answers. This realization confirmed another that I had made previously to me– no one has all of the answers– everyone is just trying to sort things out.

By interviewing my parents I got a string of accounts that left me scratching my head and wondering who really was at fault. In the end, I concluded that when emotions are involved, getting to the truth is an impossible assignment. My parents best intentions were overtaken by their individual unresolved histories and painful past experiences. There was an alcoholic father on my mom’s side and a verbally abusive mother on my dad’s side. That neither of my parents had resolved their painful pasts before they took the plunge gave their marriage a limited shelf life.

By participating in the Beautiful Minds Challenge, I learned that I cannot change another person, but I can change myself. I can better look at an issue from another person’s side. I can commit to not acting based on my moods. I can steer clear of negativity, toxicity, and dysfunction. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be bitter, I can just use all of these experiences to continue to grow.

Remains by Lydia Nuhfer | Hybrid Education of Greater Atlanta | Tucker, GA

Lydia_Nuhfer-remains5Percy Shelly, in his poem Ozymandias, speaks on permanence, destruction, and change. The poem illustrates the link between the concept of eternity and the reality of destruction and decay. I have always found truth in the poem, and for thirteen year old me, destruction came in the form of mental illness. This piece, titled Remains, was inspired by the years during which depression and anorexia changed me, and the new, more authentic self that grew from my self-destructive past. Each piece of the collage holds significant and personal meaning, and the project was a difficult but rewarding exercise in letting go.

Lydia_Nuhfer-remains4The background of the collage is composed of items and documents that held the greatest meaning to me at a time when I was tearing myself apart. I filled the white space with letters my father sent me when I was first hospitalized for anorexia and suicidal tendencies. On top of those I pasted love notes from my partner at the time and blog posts I made trying to make sense of what I was feeling. I cut up and scattered poems I wrote during that time about my gender identity, my scars, my eating disorder, and the overwhelming feeling of being trapped. Although I have not written in many months, reading these poems while I created this piece provoked a desire to write again. Even the destruction that the poems represent instills in me a sense of creation and artistic expression. Finally, I bordered the piece with burned paper, symbolizing the part of my life that fell to ash and paved the way for a new chapter.

Lydia_Nuhfer-remains2To paint the central part of the piece, the hands, I wanted to do something more creative and symbolic than watercolor. I learned how paint was once made from ashes, and mixed my own, the ash representing ruin. After painting the hands, I detailed them with veins, leaves, and flowers. The bandaged wrists gradually transforming into blossoms was one of the most emotional aspects to create. For years I self harmed, stuck in a pattern of lapses, relapses, and collapses. From that pain, though, I am transforming myself and building a healthier life.

Lydia_Nuhfer-remains1Things are very different now than they were two years ago. I’m properly medicated and in therapy, and it’s been many months since my last relapse. I am proudly trans and queer, and open about all facets of my identity. I do not see myself as a different person now than I was then, rather a wiser one, continuing to flesh myself out through experiences and interactions. Creating Remains was part of that journey. I began to recall elements of myself that I buried long ago. Although I have always seen my depression as a negative force, I found myself smiling while reading through old papers, reminiscing upon the wonderful support I had and the tenacity and strength I found within myself. The creation of this piece helped me to view my past from a different angle and not as something to attempt to forget. I can see myself now, instead, like the trees that grow after a forest fire- stretching towards the light, my way cleared. I have found room for my roots to spread.

You Can’t Take Away Someone’s Beliefs by Ethan Blair| High Mowing School | Wilton, NH

I was in Tibet this summer traveling with a Tibetan medicine group. Often, when we were in a large Tibetan city, we were the only white people there. We were interviewed by police multiple times, sometimes by undercover police. I was arrested once. One of my friends was using a VPN at one point to contact his friends back home on Facebook and the police tracked him down and stopped us on the street and smashed his sim card and phone. It was almost impossible to leak information about the situation in Tibet.

I was attending a gathering in a small nomadic village in the heights of Tibet where around two hundred yogis were reading the Tibetan book the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The yogis would wake up early and stay up late reading a sacred text, keeping their culture alive.
I was staying with a very hospitable Tibetan family. I never believed in or understood enlightenment and meditation until I met the grandmother and grandfather of this family. They had spent five years of their life together in retreat in a cave on a mountain four miles from their village. It’s hard to put into words, but there was something about them that I had never felt in anyone before.

One day my mother was showing the grandmother a movie on the computer. I am not sure what movie it was, but the Dalai Lama comes on the screen and the old woman broke into tears when she saw him. We didn’t really understand why at the time. The whole family crowded around the screen. The teenaged girl ran and locked the door. When I looked at all of their faces, I realized that they were crying tears of joy. Later we found out that hit was the first time in around thirty years that they old woman had seen an image of the Dalai Lama because the Chinese many years back had banned photos of the Dalai Lama.

This photo is of one of the celebrations that went on during the time I was in that village. The photo says more than a thousand words—it shows that no matter what the Chinese do, they can never take away the Tibetans’ beliefs.

Flying Through the Changes by Matthew Lemonier | New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts | Slidell, LA

This Challenge made me change who I am for the better.

It was the night of November 6th when I was checking my inbox and learned about the 2014 Beautiful Minds Challenge. I was intrigued and confused by the prompt. I remember seeing the deadline and thinking to myself how I’d lose a lot of sleep if I wanted to complete this within less than a month while balancing all other work in my life. These initial thoughts were specifically why I took on this Challenge. It would require me to learn about the prompt I was completely ignorant of and push me to fit it into my already demanding schedule. It would guarantee growth in myself, and that’s why I loved the idea of it. The moment I confirmed with myself that I would take on the Challenge was essentially the same moment that I finished. When I believed I could do it, nothing else would get in the way.

So now that I had a blast of inspiration, I had to figure out what I was supposed to be creating out of destruction. Before I move forward and explain my process through the challenge, I think it’s important to tell you a little bit about my personal and creative self. I am a high school junior studying jazz guitar at the New Orleans Center of Creative Arts. I like jazz, but it’s not necessarily what I love to listen to and play in my leisure time. The reason I enjoy studying it is because it makes me a well-rounded musician and pushes me out of my musical comfort zone. This is something I feel every artist should experience to widen their perspective of their own artistic discipline.

As much as I try to grow as a musician, I try not to lose sight of the importance of growing as young intellectual and a healthy lifelong learner. For example, the past few months before the Challenge, I’d been making lists to complete things every week that would make me grow as an individual. They usually consist of lifelong learning skills that I truly want to be better at, but require practice because I’ve never had a natural ability for them. Three things that reoccur consistently on the weekly to-do list are “read for an hour every day”, “summarize briefly about what I’ve read daily ”, and “meditate for at least 10 minutes daily”. These are everyday goals of mine, because I believe that becoming better at reading, writing, and focusing are qualities that help a person critically think in all aspects of their life.

After researching the idea of creative destruction, I understood what the prompt was asking of me, but I was still missing a submission idea. I became frustrated because I was trying to keep up with schoolwork, jazz guitar practice, my daily lifelong learning skills practices, and now I have taken on another project of the Beautiful Minds contest. I was still confident I could complete it, but all of my work began to snowball and left me feeling overwhelmed. I then came across Logan Davis’s writing, “We Destroy to Understand” on the Beautiful Minds Challenge Monthly Archive page. His writing discusses the cycle of Creative Destruction being divided into 3 sections: destruction, understanding, and creation. At the end of his piece, he writes, “Change nothing in the way you create, because it is more than likely you already think about things in a similar fashion as I have outlined…The prompt of The Beautiful Minds Challenge is not a challenge to change how you create: It is a task of how you think about creation.” This turned on a light in my head and completely changed my approach to my creative submission.

I was trying to change the way I create for the Challenge, but what I do to myself on a daily basis was Creative Destruction! Everyday, I am always trying to push myself into uncomfortable situations that force me to grow and adapt because that’s what makes life exciting for me. Jose Saramago put it the best when he said, “A human being is a being who is constantly ‘under construction,’ but also, in a parallel fashion, always in a state of constant destruction”. I love growth and development in myself, but the only way that can happen is if I throw out some of the old ways about me to make room for the new.

Even though I had this idea of self-development/destruction as the main point of my submission, I didn’t feel like a short essay talking about myself was enough to show my development. I wanted to create a music submission that reflected my self-development/destruction as well. So I talked to my music teacher on ways that I could grow as a jazz musician so that I could incorporate ideas of growth into my musical submission. He asked me “How often do you listen to jazz music?” I was embarrassed to admit that I don’t really listen to it on my own time unless it’s for class. He responded, “If you want to get better, start with listening to the greats like Charlie Parker everyday. Listen – over and over and over. Listen to their articulation, phrasing, and lift ideas from the records.”

I decided that if I was going to create a music submission that accurately reflected my self-development, I should take my teacher’s advice. From that moment on, I only listened to Charlie Parker records over and over and over again. Going to sleep. In the car. By myself at lunch. At dinner. I was basically listening to him any moment I was free and not working. My friends were calling me crazy and saying that they would never torture themselves like that. They considered it harm, while I saw it as healing. I believed that if I kept listening to the solos and melodies, I could bring ideas I was hearing into the music submission I would soon make.

Over the course of the month, I was Creative Destruction. I was growing in all possible aspects of my life. I was keeping up with school, reading, writing, meditating, listening to jazz, and practicing when I could. This was very difficult in the beginning, but like everything else, once I got into a rhythm of doing them daily, it became easier. What all of these activities have in common is that they required sickening self-discipline and lots of focus. It’s not necessarily about the individual activities I was doing, rather, it was about what they asked of me and if I was up to the Beautiful Minds Challenge I created for myself. It wasn’t the stress that made this month enjoyable. Rather, it was the feeling of accomplishment that I gained after overcoming the stress and knowing that I am ready for whatever comes my way as long as I believe I’m ready.

It was and still is not about a scholarship or the money. Changing myself and living in this month’s moment was much more rewarding than any cash or scholarship prize. It made me love living, and learning. At Thanksgiving, I was audibly thankful for the opportunities I have to even be able to grow as a musician and an intellectual. Thank you Marlboro College for helping me figure out my potential as a human this month.

Jazz Song Submission: “Flying through the Changes”
As stated above, this piece was heavily inspired by Charlie Parker because of how much I listened and connected to his music this month. I’ve titled it “Flying through the Changes” because I felt like I was changing and growing so rapidly throughout the month. “The Changes” is also alluding to the name of the chord progression in jazz tunes. “Flying” is another allusion to Charlie Parker’s nickname, “Byrd”. This tune may innately sound to you like “elevator music”, as a friend of mine so kindly put it, but it most certainly reflects me playing a style music that I was not comfortable writing at all. It pushed me far out of my comfort zone, and even more so when I only listened to Charlie Parker for weeks. I truly hope the effort I put towards this project is clear in my writing and song. Thank you.

New Light from a Dying Star by Perrin Segura | Christ Church Episcopal School | Greenville, SC

I learned a great deal after working with wire and wool and about working in a three-dimensional format with new materials. For the first time in my artistic journey, I was faced with the prospect of converting a two-dimensional image of shapes into a three-dimensional structure of continuous line. At first glance, the shapes that make up the skeleton of the destroyed star are formless blobs, but as I looked closer, it was revealed that distinctive shapes and patterns twined themselves around each other in an infinitely complex web of twisting, organic curves. The more I looked, the more was revealed. It was a challenge to me, but like any challenge, I believe it has greatly helped me to grow as an artist, and I have gained a better understanding of spatial relationships.

Perrin_Segura-destruction_title_pagePerrin_Segura-destruction_project_pages_1 Perrin_Segura-destruction_project_final

The Beauty of Destruction by Alexis Turgeon and Abbey Branco | Dartmouth High School | Dartmouth, MD

Beauty, despite what we initially think, has become increasingly harder to distinguish from the works of destruction. Destruction is not inherently bad, the human race despises endings of any kind, especially to things we hold dear. However, stars, despite their fanciful ability to hold wishes and dreams, are balls of decomposition and fumes of death. They die before they’re even born, and to humans, we see the beginning of an endless night.

Alexis_Turgeon-VIsion_board_435Going into this project, we mulled over many preconceived notions of what beauty actually is. There lies the basics: things that glitter, bright lights and blinding sparks, objects with large eyes and soft features, the ability to help others with true altruism. While those do entice some areas of appreciation and fondness, behind our fear can hold true beauty. The fear of saying goodbye, the fear of things that die or lie in decadence, watching things leave and never come back.

In flames, we’ll never reach out and retrieve the objects we once cherished; in ashes we only get memories. Fire holds conventional beauty, in the way it licks out and illuminates the shadows, it brings out the nooks and crannies the Earth composes. Stars as well, show direction to a weary day now ending; they may seem to be life to an ending afternoon. The coating of our star (no matter how meticulous metaphors may be) represented the objects people go through that prick and rip away our outer disposition. Our wire star was never an easy thing to handle; there is no comfortability in holding something that soon will die.

Alexis_Turgeon-VIsion_board_442In David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, Alexis and I read along with the class as the main character, Jason Taylor debates the definition of beauty with the seemingly illustrious, Madame Commelyneck. They volley back answers in impressive feats, nonetheless, as they concluded their discussion, they came up with nothing. Beauty is nothing, it is everything and anything a person can think of. This added to our ideas of watching our creation die and never come back, because there was beauty in watching smoke rise from our star.

Alexis_Turgeon-IMG_1593[1]Whether or not the pretentiousness of our metaphysical journey through the depths of a Beauty Jungle is the answer to what we learned, we did manage to get success. In burning this “art-baby” we made, there was a sweet moment of consternation in watching that hard work go up in flames. From going door to door in asking for my neighbor’s recyclables to break, to rummaging in my Grandfather’s scrap pile for his spare wire, to copious strips of skin being peeled away by bubbling hot glue, there was a slice of charm in that one moment.

The conclusion we made at the end of these three months would be that, our beauty, my beauty, Alexis’s beauty, your beauty, is subjective. There wasn’t a phoenix-like resurrection of our star coming back to go through the ringer once again and endure the smoke and ash for a second or thousandth time. It was gone and never coming back, our time and memories were all we had left and whether or not that’s enough, it can serve to be a gorgeous recollection. Think back to a time where the world was crumbling and the only thing you had left was a past thought, a scent that brings on tranquility, a song that lulls out your jagged anxiety.

Memories and death can glue together the fragments of our life, even in the mostAlexis_Turgeon-IMG_1814[1] unconditional ways. Maybe the star is just another droned out “English-class-examination-of-overly-prodded-metaphors”, or maybe, just maybe, it’s enough to show that beauty and destruction can go hand in hand instead of one after another.

Blood Sells by Yoni Bork | Agoura Falls High School | Encino, CA

Yoni_Bork-IMG_5868The human body is the most amazing piece of machinery on this earth. It has the ability to withstand great pressure, adapt to the relentlessness of nature, and can even rebuild itself (often stronger than before). All of these physically amazing aspects of the body are coupled with the equally astounding ability to cope with the emotional distress that human brains encounter on a daily basis. My submission is centered around the relationship between body and mind and how they work together to form out of destruction something inherently beautiful: A human being.

Yoni_Bork-IMG_5869“BLOOD CELLS RACE AS I FACE MYSELF. BLOOD CELLS RACE TO REPLACE MYSELF.” The first line refers to how my heart pumps blood swiftly through my body whenever I am facing something frightening or enraging. In the specific case of this poem, that “something” is the anguish I have been feeling lately that accompanies my journey to find myself. I have been incredibly frustrated lately as I have been unsuccessfully trying to come to terms with who I am.

Yoni_Bork-IMG_5873That frustration led me to do something that my introverted self hardly ever does. I lashed out. I let my emotions take control and eventually found my fists bleeding and my heart racing. Although that moment was unpleasant, I have discovered something beautiful about myself. The same blood cells that my heart forces through my veins are the very same blood cells that will eventually clot and heal the wounds on my knuckles. This realization had my mind bursting with ideas. 
 I came up with my poem rather quickly in that moment, but I wanted the presentation to match the words. I didn’t want my words to be a poem—I wanted them to be a process.
Yoni_Bork-IMG_5909 I created a freehanded stencil out of some sketch paper and purchased some red and brown paint to mix. I couldn’t find a store that sold a 12”x44” canvas, so I ended up having to build one myself. I then stuck my stencil to the canvas, dipped my fist in my faux blood, and began to hit my canvas. While the preparation took hours, the actual punching took mere minutes. Even so, I actually ended up hitting hard enough to bloody my knuckles again (something I tried not to do). 
 Yoni_Bork-IMG_5922The whole process was quite spiritual to me. Even now as I am writing this, I am looking down at the almost completely healed scab on my right middle knuckle—astonished at my body’s ability to heal itself. What I cannot see, however, is how my mind has been healing. This project let me turn all of my bottled up frustration into something beautiful (the painted words on my canvas) which has made me feel accomplished and eased. More importantly though, the combination of both my calmed emotions and clottable blood have come together to form an entirely new beautiful entity. That entity is Yoni.

The Exen Drunkercyst by Peter Blickensderfer | Sir Francis Drake High School | Fairfax, CA

The Prompt “Create something out of destruction. Share what you learn.” made me think pretty hard about what there is to create and learn from destruction and the meaning of the word. I am sharing this song that I created using Propellerhead’s program Reason. I think it represents something beautiful from destruction because I started out with a jumbled mess of sounds and blank synthesizer patches. Some of the sounds used in this were pre-set in Reason or sampled from Freesound.org but most I created. With all the different ways to manipulate sounds it’s easy to create a horrible noise that feels like its destroying your eardrums. I wanted this song to sound like a throwback hip hop song but with a little bit of me thrown in. The idea for the song came from sitting in the park with one of my friends just talking about music and things that would sound cool. This was one of my favorite songs to make and I learned a lot about not letting one sounds over power another. I found it especially hard to make a bass synthesizer that didn’t down out another synthesizer and still be able to be heard.

War Stories by Dilruba Sakhizada | The White Mountain School | Bethlehem, NH

The process of participating in the Beautiful Minds Challenge was very powerful. Revisiting the play that I helped create was a reminder of the life changing experience I had. I have been living in America for three years now. I am so used to living a peaceful life. However, the process of writing this essay for the Beautiful Minds Challenge reminded me of the children of war who have suffered in Afghanistan and have had similar experiences to me. It was hard to think back and see how much of a similar experience I share with many children of war. Yet, participating in the Beautiful Minds Challenge made me realize that I created something out of destruction. I gave back to children who spent their lives in pain and suffering. Most importantly, this process made me remember what I had created and how it made me feel powerful and strong to give back to children of war in my Country.

The process of choosing the best method to share my experiences was challenging and required several revisions. The idea of writing a paper was not my first idea. Initially, I wanted to create a video in which I would recreate the play and include my own experience and thoughts looking back today. However, in thinking more about my method for sharing my experience, I realized that an essay would better enable me to convey the experience of creating the play and to include my own reflections and insight that I have now. I also felt that recreating the play would not be as effective because I would not be able to capture the emotions and connections that we felt towards the children we wrote about.

This process of revisiting the play was hard, but at the same time it was very meaningful. Throughout the writing of this essay, I realized how great an opportunity it is for me to be in a peaceful country as opposed to the place where I grew up. Right now, I am safe. I am not afraid to go out and enjoy nature by myself or with my friends. I can walk out the door without feeling any fear that someone might harm me. I am also free to get an education without being in danger. At the time that I was participating in creating the play, I did not know that I was doing a good thing. I did not realize that I was giving back to children of war and children who had suffered hardships like me. I did not understand that creating that play would become such a powerful experience for me. It was not until I started brainstorming for the Beautiful Minds Challenge that I realized I had created something beautiful. I had created something meaningful out of the destruction in my Country and the destruction of the lives of those children of war.

Dilruba_Sakhizada-TheBeautifulMindsChallenge-StolenChildhood (Opens PDF in a new window.)

Ashes of Remembrance by Josephine Yu, Bronte Wen, and Yannie Mei  | Montgomery Blair High School | Potomac, MD

Much as the phoenix regrows out of its own ashes, our representation of the September 11th tragedy shows the ashes of the attack shading the memorials. On Tuesday September 11th, 2001, al-Qaeda launched two attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 2,996 people. Cleanup of the debris in New York was completed May 2002 and in the place of the towers, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum was built to commemorate the attack.

In our video, we “recreated” the plane crashes and the destruction of the towers. The towers are first built, and all seems well until the attacks begin. The towers are symbolically burned; although they are destroyed, something–the ash–remains. The ashes from the burning are then symbolically recycled to build the memorial, the ghost of the attack. From the ruins come memories, forever kept alive in two reflecting pool graves.

The reflecting pools face towards the sky–towards heaven–to connect the living with the dead. In the video, we show the aerial view of these memorials as they project to earth the invisible spirits of those lost and always remembered.

The grief and sorrow of the survivors and relatives coupled with the country united after the attack is a beautiful thing to remember. Thousands of lives were lost that day. Relatives, friends, neighbors, strangers. In the darkness of the tragedy, the country pulled together. Family left work to be with one another and friends leaned on each other for support as they cried. People across country sent waves of support to New York, bringing the nation closer than ever before. America was hurt, but not broken. From the destruction and loss came a unified country, connected through two ghost towers and all the spirits within them.

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