While he could not have an in-person ceremony to receive it, Sealy High School senior Khondker Salim achieved what he’s set out for in two previous trips to the Texas Art Education Association’s state Visual Arts Scholastic Event: the Gold Seal award reserved for the top 150 artists in the state.
“In my four years of high school, I've been blessed to get a lot of awards for my artworks but this was one of the awards that I always wanted,” Salim said of the top award given out at the state competition in a phone conversation last Sunday afternoon. “I guess it was reserved for my senior year so it was a special moment when I was finally able to get it on my very last chance.”
The new coronavirus pandemic forced the judging to move to an all-online format and the award ceremony Salim had seen in previous years that had built up visions of his name getting called alongside the top works was scrapped altogether.
“The award ceremony would have been definitely pleasing because in past years - even though I did not get the Gold Seal - I got to see the whole ceremony for the Gold Seal and it was pretty elaborate,” Salim said. “I was (hoping to) experience it myself this year, being there would have been definitely a pleasing experience, but nevertheless, I'm very happy about it.”
The Gold Seal award is the highest honor given out at the VASE State competition, reserved for the 150 best works of arts according to the TAEA website. Over 30,000 entrees are whittled down across the 20 regional competitions across Texas, leaving only 1,864 artists in the VASE student gallery on the TAEA website.
“Students are interviewed, and their artworks are juried by certified TAEA jurors,” the TAEA website says in its description of the state event. “A Rating IV is the mark of an exemplary work of art. This qualifies the student to be entered into the VASE Area Event. After the jury process is complete artworks that qualify to participate are then processed for the State Event.”
Salim’s entry to the competition, titled ‘Synergy,’ brings two of his passions together in science and art but has an even deeper personal connection with the subject of the work being Matthew DuPont, Salim’s biology teacher at Sealy High School.
“We have become very close over the four years of high school,” Salim said of his relationship with DuPont. “We talk a lot about science and stuff like that. For me, in recent years I haven't seen scientists being (recognized), their research is glorified but not the scientists themselves. Even in modern art, you always see the pop stars or the celebrated figures being depicted in art but I haven't seen a lot of, not just scientists, but any other professionals being depicted.”
Salim said the focus of his advanced placement art portfolio was focusing on highlighting regular workers like scientists, blacksmiths, ship workers and cowboys. ‘Synergy’ was just one of the works in the portfolio and it wasn’t until late in the game that Salim decided that was going to be the one he submitted.
“This was relatively lesser time,” Salim said of the number of hours put into ‘Synergy.’ “I would say, conservatively, I put in around sixty hours, but this was a piece that I'd been working on; I didn't work on it all at once. There are some pieces that I do strictly for competition and, frankly, I didn't know if I was going to enter this piece for VASE but I was just working on it for my AP portfolio, trying to get it done a little bit at a time. I'm grateful I actually did end up submitting this piece.”
It will now be on display, alongside the other 149 Gold Seal works, in a traveling exhibition that runs through November, it says in the State VASE rules and policies, but it may look a little different in the social distancing era. “In previous times, there's an art school in Houston called Glassell,” Salim explained. “When I went up there this summer, I saw the Gold Seal pieces being exhibited and knowing that my piece will be exhibited in different places like that really means a lot to me. Knowing that other people can draw inspiration from that piece and more so than that, the subject matter of my piece is very special to me. I'm quite pleased with what's going to take place and hopefully the exhibition is not hurt too much by the virus.”
Salim plans to attend Rice University next year although he will not be majoring in the arts.
“I plan on majoring in biochemistry, but I'm definitely planning to keep on continuing to do my art, even if it's just as a hobby,” Salim said. “I already have met some of my future classmates through the VASE competition that are also interested in art. We have been talking about even if we study totally unrelated majors that are not related to art, we do want to keep on continuing our passion for art and keep on doing more projects.”