The Verdict is In: Ramapo Artists Selected for Young Expressions Exhibition

Kathryn Haig, Editor In Chief

Art is life, and the six Ramapo students selected for the Young Expressions Exhibition are good at it. Good, in fact, is inadequate. Remarkable is better, or exceptional, gifted, extraordinary – the list could go on. According to Ramapo art teacher Mrs. Gibson, “These are the kids who love art.  They want to be in the art room.  They are focused on making their artwork. […] They’re the spotlight of their class, so they are creative, they think outside the box, they don’t do the bare minimum, they go above and beyond.” Held annually by the Art Center of Northern New Jersey, the Young Expressions Exhibition highlights young talent and features the work of high school artists from several districts, all selected by a jury through a competitive process. Ramapo’s selected students include Ava Ameres, Marcus Rowe, Petra Welchans, Nora Coffey, Emma McElkenny, and Aidan Saslow.


Ava Ameres:


Wake up to the incredible talent of senior Ava Ameres. Having nurtured a love of art since pre-school, Ameres’s work exhibits the exquisite detail and careful attention of an artist far beyond her years. Introduced to the world of color and creative expression by her father, Ameres “enjoy[s] making art for [herself] and do[es]n’t need to be in a class receiving a grade to feel motivated to draw.” Such intrinsic motivation is rare and serves as a tribute to her genuine passion for her craft. Capturing the start to Ameres’s daily routine, Waking Up won “Best in Show” at the Young Expressions Exhibition and certainly deserves the title. Lovingly created using colored pencils, the drawing is a self-portrait which took approximately ten hours to complete over the course of multiple class periods and time at home. Currently planning to major in graphic design, Ameres hopes to “incorporate [her] love for art into a business major and possibly design advertisements.”


Marcus Rowe:

Art is one class Marcus Rowe would never dream of sleeping through. Dog Tired, the result of three weeks of delicate, meticulous use of graphite pencils, represents, according to Rowe, “how tired [he is] during the first period of [his] day.” This piece reflects Rowe’s dedication to perfecting fine details, resulting in textures, shadows, and highlighting so incredibly realistic that it is only too easy to assume the dog-boy will soon jerk out of his slumber to the shrill sound of the bell. For Marcus, art is a way to release “whatever is on [his] mind.”  For those who have watched him evolve from the Talented Art Program in elementary school to senior year at Ramapo High School, his work is a form of escapism—a window into the life and mind of an imaginative artist. Although Rowe is “still very unsure of where [his] talent will take [him],” he is currently thinking about engaging in a design-related major and shifting from paper and pencil to digital art.


Emma McElkenny:

Anyone who sees the art of Emma McElkenny is sure to roar with approval. Usually occupied by digital design projects, McElkenny is a newcomer to sculpting, though her piece implies otherwise. Inspired by McElkenny’s “spirit animal and zodiac sign,” Lion gives the impression that it is the work of a seasoned sculptor. Having taken a few weeks to complete, McElkenny embraced the difficult medium of plaster to create a detailed, three dimensional approximation of a lion, which she then painted using watercolors. Faced with the challenges of plaster and the time restraints which accompany school art projects, McElkenny prides herself on her flexibility, her suspension of doubt and uncertainty, and her trust in her own abilities. Though her work is never rushed, McElkenny does not dwell on the fear of irreversible mistakes; she simply allows her art to take on a life of its own, understanding that this approach “makes the final product even better.” McElkenny attributes her rapid development to Mrs. Gibson, who “has taught [her] many art techniques this year” and to whom she is “very grateful for her help and encouragement.”

Nora Coffey:

Nora Coffey’s work is nothing short of lyrical. A true artist, Coffey “h[as] been involved in art since [she] could hold a pencil.” Endowed with unparalleled passion and talent, art is Coffey’s “biggest interest” and permeates every aspect of her life in school, at home, with friends, and at work. According to Coffey, “It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t do art, but in my opinion it kind of feels like a puzzle and when all the pieces, including my original vision and what comes to me in the process, come together, it makes a beautiful picture that I can be very proud of.” Coffey’s untitled piece is inspired by “A Kiss” by The Driver Era in the left circle and “Clay Pigeons” by Michael Cera in the right circle. Completed over the course of four to five class periods using colored pencils, Coffey creates two parallel worlds in her work, representative of these two wildly different songs. Although her entry to the Young Expression Exhibition is abstract, Coffey most enjoys “drawing realistically” and the cognitive stimulation such detailed work provokes.


Aidan Saslow:

Bokehon by Aidan Saslow

Petra Welchans:

It’s all there in black and white that Petra Welchans is working towards her dream. Inspired by her grandfather, who “taught art history for many years and has always done various interesting projects in his free time,” Welchans has “been painting seriously since 8th grade,” even having sold a few of her pieces. Her untitled Young Expressions Exhibition piece is itself a masterpiece, “done entirely in India ink and a little white Archilochus paint for highlights” over the course of approximately five class periods. Given that the reference photo was chosen by her father after she forgot to print one herself, Welchans appreciated the challenge it posed. Welchans is clearly an accomplished artist whose love of the craft goes far beyond the act of creating. Welchans claims “the best thing about art is that it is subjective and different pieces will speak to different people, there is no real ‘first place’ in art since art is a reflection of history and themes in society, which we can always find importance in.” Committed to New York University, Welchans plans to major in art history and hopes to become an art curator in order to “witness works from all over the world.”

The Young Expressions Exhibition was on view from January 15th to January 22nd at the Art Center of New Jersey’s Geltman Gallery. Although this particular exhibition is over, the art world is entering show season, and Mrs. Gibson is “really excited to see where [students] get placement and what pieces get accepted because [Ramapo] ha[s] a really talented group of kids” this year. There is no doubt about the talent of the Ramapo art community, and Ava Ameres, Marcus Rowe, Petra Welchans, Nora Coffey, Emma McElkenny, and Aidan Saslow demonstrate unrivaled devotion to capturing the emotions, imagination, and unique perspectives that make art so enthralling.

Congratulations to our Young Expressions Exhibition artists! We at Ramapo look forward to seeing what you create next.