Debbie Croft: Mariposa youth put creativity on display

02/07/2014 7:00 PM

02/07/2014 8:06 PM

The Young Masters Youth Art Exhibition is on display at Mariposa’s Treetop Gallery this month. Pleased with the artwork of local students, Cara Goger, executive director of the Mariposa County Arts Council, encourages the public to stop by.

"Kids of all ages have such an amazing ability to express their thoughts and feelings visually, and I am always blown away by what they put out there,” she says.

According to Goger, this year is the first time MCAC specified a theme for the competition. Titled “Creating Our National Parks,” students were asked to draw, paint, photograph or sculpt in a way to encourage the preservation of our natural open spaces.

Students in kindergarten through 12th grade participate in this annual exhibit. A few paintings caught my attention while visiting the gallery earlier this week:

“Sunrise on El Capitan” is done in acrylic by Malte Mae Salonen, age 10. About her painting she said, “There are shimmers of light on the rock. The clouds have sun rays going through. If we keep our big Yosemite clean, it will look like this.”

Salonen painted Merced River in the foreground, tumbling over boulders, with pines and vegetation in the background. Exceptional artistry by someone so young.

Grace Cassady, 15, used oils to portray her father’s horse, Shaklar.

“He has packed his horse and mules through the Sierra many times. Horses are my passion, and I have been drawing them my whole life,” she said.

Her 12-year-old brother, Cooper, also entered a painting, titled “Moose in Meadow.” His landscape includes the Sierra’s peaks and an alpine lake.

In Kayla Crisman-Gilgo’s simple portrayal of a sunset landscape, the horizon’s silhouette stands in contrast to a lone pine branch. Gilgo is a student at Mariposa County High School.

Katie Wall’s “Night Sky” is done in bold purple, black and yellow-orange. The 17-year-old illustrated a sky full of stars behind Yosemite’s cliffs, with a golden firefall streaming down the granite.

For almost a century hot embers were pushed off the edge of Glacier Point every summer evening to entertain park visitors. It became known as the Firefall.

“The Firefall is a part of our past,” Wall says, explaining why she didn’t want to paint a traditional image of Yosemite.

Gilgo, Wall and several other MCHS art students submitted paintings for the exhibition.

With oil pastels and watercolors, 6-year-old Beren Westerling captured “The Falls, the Mountains, the Rainbows” in sunny colors.

“I like my artwork because of the rainbow and the waterfalls,” he said. “And I like the trees, too, because they are dark green, and they are large and small. And the waterfalls are sparkly. I used paint and sprayed water on it to make the rainbow.”

Wilde Ketron is a kindergarten student from El Portal who painted Half Dome in a picture he calls “Yosemite Nature.” He and his family go to Yosemite as often as they can, for picnics, bicycling and rock climbing.

“This painting is the best I've painted,” he said. “Yosemite is beautiful and makes me want to paint.”

Out of the 50 entries, Goger said, 10 will be selected for a traveling exhibit to San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences next week. The artwork will be part of the Spirit of Yosemite Festival, sponsored by the Yosemite-Mariposa County Tourism Bureau. Visit for details about this event.

The Young Masters exhibit honors the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. It also recognizes the contributions of past artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams. Their works provided a glimpse of the region’s beauty to Americans across the country, who had yet to visit and see Yosemite’s grandeur for themselves.

Treetop Gallery and MCAC are at 5009 CA State Highway 140, above Chocolate Soup on Mariposa’s south end. Hours open are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call (209) 966-3155 or (800) 903-9936, or for more information about this and other exhibits.

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