Sophomore wins Congressional art contest

September 16, 2020 — by Martin Xu and Mina Yeap

As sophomore Samika Agarwal rushed home on May 29 to meet the Congressional Art Contest’s submission deadline at 5 p.m., she vacillated between submitting her original choice of “Eleanor Lines of Life,” a depiction of an elderly woman, or “An Ode of Love,” a heartfelt oil painting of her family. She ended up making the switch to “An Ode of Love.” 

Little did she know at the time, she would win the contest with this last-minute decision.

In the second week of September, Agarwal’s winning piece was hung up in the Canon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol. It will be on display for one year. 

Agarwal started taking art classes twice a week when she was 7. As Agarwal practiced, she slowly obtained the ability to transform her imagination into art that she was proud of. This step up made her more confident and passionate about her art and her abilities. 

Despite this, Agarwal stopped taking art classes in sixth grade because she felt that the classes limited her imagination by focusing on using the “right technique.”

“I quit because it became irritating that I wasn’t allowed to express myself in art classes,” Agarwal said. 

The piece that won the Congressional Art Contest was highly personal, depicting her mother sitting in between Agarwal’s aunt and grandpa, who both passed away during a robbery in 1997. 

“An Ode of Love” is a tribute to them. The blue background represents her family’s forgotten memories. While her mother is painted colorfully, her grandpa and aunt are based in blue to symbolize the fading of memories and the rise of heartaches.

When Agarwal heard the news that she won the contest, she said she could not have been happier. 

“It feels amazing because it’s hard to gain recognition as an artist,” Agarwal said. “I hope people are inspired by my art and create something that belongs to them. It’s good to know that my art was appreciated, especially by congressmen, because it takes a lot of effort to succeed.”

Agarwal doesn’t plan to stop after winning the Congressional Art Contest. She said she sees awards not as a boasting opportunity, but as a way to improve, and hopes to continue working towards creating higher-quality, more meaningful artwork. 

“I've learned that I can't let this win get to me or think that I’ve reached my end goal, because I haven't,” Agarwal said. “The truth is, this painting wasn’t perfect, and I still have a lot to work on in order to grow as an artist.”

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