Things this month have been absolutely amazing and absolutely busy! I am proud to announce that I am the Grand Prize Winner of the 2014 VSA Young Emerging Artist Program with the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.! This year’s theme was “The Journey,” and prompted artists to submit their work that concerned their own personal journeys living with a disability. With this award, my piece is exhibited in the Smithsonian in Washington, it is also part of a nationally traveling exhibition, and I receive a cash prize of $20,000. I have been invited, along with the other 14 winners, to attend a Congressional Reception in January so I’m already starting to plan my outfit! I am extremely honored to be receiving this award and am so excited to see what this next year holds for me.
My winning papercut sculpture, Never Stopping, deals with my experiences as a heart transplant recipient, specifically the overwhelming feelings related to my physical issues as well as the desire for healing. The entire original sculpture is about 16 ft in height and is made entirely of handcut paper. I also added screenprinted cutouts of hands, legs, oranges, and bananas. These symbolize offerings and milagros, or physical representations of intentions. The idea behind it was for the viewer to become overwhelmed with the structure, in order to mimic my own feelings. For the Kennedy Center, I brought the piece down to a smaller scale, which you can see in the photo.
My transplant is a major part of my life, and I am open to any questions readers might have. I received my heart at the age of 14 months at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. That transplant team became my family, and I am always going back every now and then to visit. They still follow up with me and my procedure results even though I have switched to the cardiology team at UPMC Children’s Hospital. Right now, I still have my original heart making my transplant one of the oldest single organ transplants in the country.