Artist: Celita Codamon

By Marta Malinowski

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After speaking to the President of Latino Art Beat in receiving an unexpected call, Celita Codamon,Div. 460, could not believe what she just heard. She won first place in the Illinois Latino Art Beat competition and was being flown to Boston, MA for a four-week summer art program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She was given a week to get all her things together and wrap her mind around the fact that she would be studying art across the country.The program consisted of six college classes, which have an average total cost of about $7000.

During her junior year, Codamon took AP Art I, and that was when her teacher, Mr. Ceh, submitted her piece into the annual Latino Art Beat competition. The title of the competition was “What Hispanic Heritage & Culture Means to Me?” with entries from high school juniors and seniors from Chicago (and statewide throughout Illinois), Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C. Codamon’s artwork, titled Day of the Dead — Nightlife competed against others from all over Illinois and won first place for the state.

Codamon’s artwork usually consists of eerie and creepy fantasy themes, which she also applied to her entry.

“I don’t look like I would do something like that, but I definitely paint pretty creepy stuff,” Codamon said.

The painting has several ghosts dancing in the background to portray the thematic element of the day of the dead: to celebrate death. In the foreground is a grim reaper-like figure welcoming the viewer to the Day of the Dead’s “nightlife.” She thought a lot about composition and contrast between light and dark. A concern for her though, was keeping everything balanced out.

“A lot of art critics look for not only detail, but that you stepped back and actually thought about the composition of the piece like I did,” Codamon said.

A close friend of Codamon, Javier Delarosa, Div. 450, is a big fan of Codamon’s winning art piece and is proud of her accomplishments.

“I absolutely loved it. Whenever I see it, it’s hard to keep my eyes in one place because there’s so much going on. She definitely paid much attention to the detail and emotion in every character in the scene, and that set an interesting and dynamic mood on the piece as a whole,” he said.

Toward the end of the summer program, the student’s artwork was displayed at a final gallery opening with college scouts coming from all over the country. For the gallery, Codamon created a sculpture that caused her to facing many obstacles since is was her first time creating a sculpture. During this time, the gay pride parade was taking place in Chicago, and Codamon was not able to attend like she always has. She created the sculpture, so that she could be at the parade in her own way.

“I took molds of volunteers’ torsos and put casts back to back on top of each other. On the top, the women’s busts were back to back, in the middle it was a woman’s and a man’s, and on the bottom it was a man and a man. I was working with a new medium so I did have difficulty with the structure at first but I liked the challenge,” Codamon said.

The title of the piece was Equality in Union and she chose to paint the sculpture in a rainbow of colors. Her main goal was to send a message about LGBTQ pride. Having a number of friends and younger brother who are gay, the controversial concept was really close to her heart. She wanted her piece to be appreciated, criticized and to get people thinking.

“It was a totem pole of equality, unity, and marriage,” she said.

Through the summer program, Codamon was able to meet a lot of students like her from around the country. A new friend of hers, Tim, would set up his tri-pod and take pictures of what inspired him. Another friend of hers, Gus, was a graffiti artist. Instead of damaging public property to express his art, he would use an illusion board and stencils to create bold imagery against his graffiti-style text. Codamon was inspired by their hard work and dedication. These two friends were some of the volunteers that offered their bodies for her project.

“I honestly met the most inspiring and outgoing artists. I was surrounded by this community of people who were as passionate about art as I am, even if it was different forms. We collaborated and fed off of each other’s energy,” she said.

After her experience, Codamon left with many memories and came back to Chicago as a more experienced artist.

This year Codamon’s first place artwork was featured at the Chicago Latino Art Beat ceremony here at Lane. After all of the other artists’ pieces were displayed and she presented her acceptance speech, the President of Latino Art Beat, Don Nuccio, spoke nothing but positive words about Codamon.

“He said that if I chose to go to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA, he would aid me generously,” she said.

The last scholarship Latino Art Beat awarded to a senior was valued at $168,000 and being a senior this year in AP Art II, Codamon’s goal is to win again and get a similar college scholarship.

Codamon has been interested in art as long as she can remember. When she came to Lane, and entered the Art Majors program, she was finally able to take her hobby and put it towards a higher purpose.

“It was amazing to find out something you were passionate about your whole life, you could actually pursue. There are more opportunities for artists than meets the eye,” Codamon said.

Delarosa has seen Codamon’s progress since freshman year.

“She has more of a creative spirit; I have a tighter, more technical style while her loose and free style is evident in her work,” he said.

Codamon has no doubt that over the years, all her art teachers have had a great impact on her artistic growth. Since it was Codamon’s first time creating a sculpture, she was having trouble with keeping the molds stacked up and balanced. There was a thought in her mind to change her project and do something else that would be more comfortable for her to execute. Her professor in Boston, Garett Yahn, encouraged her to keep her sculpture idea,even though it brought her challenges to construct, and insisted that no matter how extravagant an idea could be, anything is possible.

“[My teachers] helped me channel my inner artist who is not afraid to be judged,” Codamon said.

Codamon is still unsure as to what exactly she will end up doing in college, but she is positive she will continue to pursue art. During her journey at Lane with art, her parents have been 100% supportive.

“Originally, they were worried because it is a competitive field but after I won this scholarship for the summer program, they realized a lot is possible with my art. Now they are very proud,” she said.

Codamon’s dream is to pursue Art therapy. To her it has always been important to help others and she wants to continue to do that, along with her passion for art.

“I want to help people get their emotions out visually, through artwork. I want to be a part of the movement to get people to speak with art, since it is really a beautiful language,” Codamon said.

Through her four years at Lane, Codamon has found herself as an artist and truly flourished.

“Reflecting back on where I started and considering where I am now, I don’t see myself diverting from the road I’m on. I can’t remember a time when I saw something inspiring and did not immediately want to create my own visual representation of it,” Codamon said.