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Art Students Depict Effects of Terrorism - 2001-12-27

Art students at a Los Angeles high school have put together an exhibition of art works depicting the effects of terrorism, which they hope will inspire designs for U.S. postage stamps. The multimedia works will also be displayed at major airports around the United States.

Working with the theme, "Stop Terrorism," the students created models for postage stamps using photographs, sketches, paintings, and computer-generated designs. Teacher Joseph Gatto of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts assigned the project in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. "All I asked the youngsters to do was to think about the different types of terrorism, not necessarily just related to 9-11 [September 11], but most of them got the message that that's what it was about," he says. "And I think the pieces that we've selected are truly indicative of young people that abhor war, abhor violence and abuse of the environment and abuse of our fellow man."

Teachers selected 35 art works for the display. Some depict airplanes, guns, and even Osama bin Laden. Others are more subtle. Christina Quarles, a 16-year-old student, used a photograph she had taken of a five-year-old girl. "I just wanted to show the human emotion in this photograph, of fear and terror, that comes with terrorism, and try to show a peaceful message," she says. "It's a child looking out through crossed bars, through plants, and she has kind of an emotional look on her face. She's kind of scared."

Another art work provides a graphic depiction of terror. It is the pen-and-ink sketch of an airplane passenger whose face is distorted with fear. It was done by Justin Green, a 17-year-old student. "All it is, is just raw emotion, and things that can pour from someone just knowing about terrorism, what that can do to someone - fear and anxieties, and things like that. It's just very blunt," he says.

The events of September 11 and the surge of patriotism that followed inspired the design proposal of 17-year-old Justin Buendia. Using his computer, he created an image based on the U.S. flag. "I put text that says 'Fight Terrorism,' and that's on top of the American flag. And I sort of made the red stripes bleed to represent blood. And I wanted to show how America was hurt by this, but the flag is still intact, and it's not tattered or anything," he says. "It's just that the colors are running, and, maybe, I just wanted to show that we can't have this [terrorism] any more, because it's really bad for everyone."

Erica Szuch, a 16-year-old student, used a high-contrast black-and-white photograph to show the impact of terrorism. "It's a woman who is crying out in pain, and I thought that that was indicative of the assignment, and what it really means to be affected by terrorism," she says.

Krystal Newmark painted an image of a mother and child to show another kind of pain, and a different kind of terror, inflicted on children. "I did two stamps, and both of them are depicting the same theme, which is not necessarily about the September 11 incident, but more about child abuse," she says.

For Daphne Crump, events of September 11 are fused with the problems of urban neighborhoods, where children often are confronted by violence. Her work is a collage of young and old faces. She says an incident of violence can help us come together. "It's just basically saying that we have to learn from this, and these lessons that we learn, we can learn from them, or we don't. So we just have to choose at the time to grow from it."

The collection of student art works will be displayed at the Miami International Airport in Florida beginning December 20. Later stops will include the Boston and San Francisco airports.

The U.S. Postal Service receives 50,000 proposals each year for suggested themes for its stamps. Normally, postal officials say, they do not solicit art work, but submissions like these from students are always welcome.

The U.S. Postal Service has issued one stamp related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, a departure from its usual policy of not responding to specific disasters. The new postage stamp depicts the U.S. flag with the words "United We Stand."