Over the next year, America’s lawmakers and visitors to the U.S. Capitol building will pass by a bit of Juneau, compliments of Garret Klein, a rising senior at Thunder Mountain High School.
Klein’s award-winning painting “The Patient Lady” was recently awarded the Congressional Award in the 2021 All-State Art Competition sponsored by the Alaska School Activities Association. The painting will hang alongside other Congressional Award-winning artwork in the busy corridor that connects the Cannon House office building to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
“I was just blown away. I was in absolute shock,” he said, in a phone interview recalling his feelings when he learned that his painting had been selected for the honor.
He said that he had started the painting at the outset of quarantine last year, but he quickly set it aside as his desire to paint diminished as the lockdown continued.
When school resumed, his art teacher, Angela Imboden, nudged him to work on the painting and told him she was submitting it for the contest.
“I felt a surge of inspiration come back,” he said, adding that he worked through the night to meet the submission deadline.
He cited the feeling of being stuck during quarantine as the inspiration for the work.
“Life for the better part of a year felt like I was stuck in a box with no sides. If I wanted to leave, I could– but I knew of the over looming threat. As I was creating this piece, I tried to reflect my feeling of being lost, yet found; distant, but present; eccentric, however patient. That is the story of “The Patient Lady,” he said in the artist statement that accompanied the piece.
Klein said he thinks the eyes of the model are the key to the painting’s success.
“That feeling of being stuck, that emotion and expression are there. You see that emotion in her face,” he said. “The eyes are the most important piece in any work.”
This summer, Klein plans to visit Washington to see his painting hang among other award-winning artwork from the country’s high school students. Beyond that, he’s hoping to make art a career and is considering college options, including art school.
He’s also winning fans along the way.
“It’s a beautiful piece of art,” said Zack Brown, communications director for U.S. Rep. Don Young, who confirmed via email that the painting arrived in Washington last week.
His teacher is confident in his ability and encouraged by his trajectory.
“Growth! That is the best word I can use to describe Garrett. Every time he walks into the art room, he has grown an inch in height. But more importantly, has been his growth in painting. Garrett has worked hard with portrait painting and proportions of the human figure to get to the level he is at now. The art room is flooded with Garrett’s studies on canvas, walls, and sketch pads from over the years. These studies show a timeline of incredible growth in just three years,” Imboden said via email. “One more high school year to go, and one more year to watch such exponential visual growth out of a persistent portrait painter.”
Klein thanked Imboden, fellow art teacher Nancy Lehnhart and local artist MK MacNaughton for making his success possible.
“What goes on in the art room at TMHS is incredible,” he said.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at email@example.com or 907-308-4891.