For some, The Heckscher Museum of Art is just a building that exists on the edge of Huntington’s Heckscher Park, but for Hicksville High School senior Estefanie Arrue, the museum symbolizes achievements she never thought possible.
For the past 22 years, the museum has hosted Long Island’s Best: Young Artists at The Heckscher Museum. The juried exhibition gives high school students across Nassau and Suffolk County the opportunity to have their art showcased in a museum setting.
This year’s exhibition received 385 submissions by students from 62 high schools. Out of the 80 works of art chosen for display, awards were given to the top pieces. The third place honor, the Hadley Prize, was awarded to Arrue for her work, “Female Reconstruction.”
Arrue’s piece features a hand-drawn colored pencil image of Malala Yousafzai in front of a Good Housekeeping article from the ‘50s instructing women how to be good housewives, and behind empowering quotes from female role models of today.
“I took [the Good Housekeeping article’s] words and put them behind Malala to signify they’re in the past. In front of Malala is inspiring words. In front because we’re getting there, but we’re not there yet,” Arrue said.
As required by the exhibition’s guidelines, Arrue’s piece was inspired by another work in the museum, Audrey Flack’s “Lady Madonna.” As a believer in the fight for women’s rights and equality, Arrue chose Flack’s piece as her inspiration because “[Flack’s artist] statement said she liked to play a lot on the meaning of femininity.”
When creating her own artwork for submission, Arrue knew she wanted to feature a prominent female figure.
“We’ve progressed a lot, but we still live in a man’s world,” she said. “I wanted to create a piece that spoke to that aspect of feminism.”
With the employment of different mediums and techniques, such as colored pencil, image transfer and silkscreening, to create her art, Arrue’s piece is a work of mixed media—an artistic format she tends to gravitate toward.
“I thought I’d use colored pencil to write my own words, but then I realized I liked the look more of different text, like different sizes and some bolded and some in front of and behind [Malala],” she explained. “Most of my pieces end up being mixed media. I think it’s different textures in one piece that make it all cohesive.”
Arrue didn’t always know she was going to become the passionate artist that she is today. As a young child, Arrue behaved as any other kid with a piece of paper and a pencil in front of them would—she doodled. But what separated her from the rest was that she never became bored with it.
“When I was small, the only way my mom could get me to quiet down or behave was to give me a notebook to draw in,” Arrue recalled. “She said I would sit there for hours drawing sketches or little things that came to my mind. I didn’t think it would become this passion I have now.”
What started as simple notebook sketches has since turned into a passion and hobby that Arrue centers her life around. At school, she is a member of the National Art Honor Society and the yearbook club, participates in the Olympics of the Visual Arts and is a part of her school’s contributions to The Memory Project, a nonprofit organization that sends children around the world hand-drawn portraits of themselves.
“A lot of [the children] have never seen a picture of themself because they may not have a mirror or camera,” Arrue said. “It’s something I really love doing because knowing kids will have portraits that someone else drew of them, it’s a good feeling to give back to kids.”
Arrue plans to attend an art school and become an art teacher, but with graduation still months away, she’s taking her time to enjoy the limelight her and her art have been placed in.
“When I was younger, I never thought [my art] would get this big, that I would be in a museum where anyone can see my artwork. I didn’t think that it would be something I could accomplish,” she said. “It’s an indescribable feeling.”