AURORA -- Three Aurora High School students will have their art portfolios, consisting of eight pieces each, sent to New York City to be judged among other portfolios from around the nation.

Sakurako Reed, Lexie Mehallis and Caeley Blechschmid were the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Gold Key winners from the high school. They "demonstrated the highest levels of originality, technique and personal vision," according to a news release from the school district.

According to a scholastic blog, the students producing the 16 top portfolios nationwide receive a $10,000 scholarship for their efforts.

Other students of AHS art teachers Sean Berrodin and Brian Caponi also were recognized for individual pieces as part of the program. They were listed in the Jan. 25 Advocate.

Berrodin said the portfolios represent the highest level of skill, consistency and vision. Since artists have to submit eight pieces, they have to show evidence of consistent quality.

"In every one of their pieces in all three of their portfolios, there was evidence of skill, personal expression, and they were spectacular," said Berrodin. "As a teacher, I know the amount of work that went into these things. It is staggering. The amount work these kids do requires a commitment, a passion and a willingness that's hard to come by."

Both Mehallis and Blechschmid used color pencil in their portfolio, but their themes were very different. Blechschmid said she drew a series of underwater scenes in colored pencil.

"I did one over the summer because I thought it looked cool how the water distorts the people," she said. "I did another one, and then it just turned into eight."

Mehallis said she initially started drawing masks because she enjoyed "doing the detail and glitter," but at some point the art become less about the masks and more about what was behind them.

"I started to tell stories with it," she said. "It seemed like people were trying to hide behind the masks."

Unlike Mehallis and Blechschmid, Reed said she used oil paints for her portfolio, which was a study of the entanglement of limbs of humans very close together.

She said she liked playing with the discomfort people sometimes feel in close quarters. "I have one piece that has three people, one in the middle, and they're being pulled in separate directions by two different people," she said.

The first such piece she did was a girl clinging to a boy's back "like a koala," she said. The portfolio grew out of that piece, she said.

Berrodin said the level of expertise in the portfolios represents the best of the art produced by Aurora students.

"I think that what's very clear when you look at these pieces is that they've kind of mastered these mediums," he said. "These are the kinds of pieces you walk past in the hallway, and you do a double take."

All three girls expressed surprise at having their portfolios recognized.

"I cried a little because I really wanted that gold portfolio," said Reed. "I was pretty excited. I thought I kind of had a chance, but I wasn't sure because last year they chose a lot of photography."

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