Brockton High students 'in disbelief' when artwork featured at UMass Dartmouth gallery

BROCKTON — Even after winning an award at the 2024 Emerging Young Artist Exhibition, Brockton High School senior Dora Dorval said her painting "Lilith" still isn't finished.

"I think I'm just going to leave it like that," she said, standing in the paint-splattered art studio inside Brockton High, looking across the room at her dark-toned painting resting on an easel.

Dorval, 17, won the Dean's Choice Award at UMass Dartmouth's Emerging Young Artists competition, a New England-wide art exhibit for high school students, in January. Dorval was one of 11 BHS student artists who were accepted into the coveted gallery.

Over 800 students across the six New England states submitted their work for the annual exhibit, but just 200 students overall were selected to be featured at the virtual gallery. The BHS students' work was also hung in the halls of the Massachusetts Statehouse from Feb. 5 to Feb. 9.

Dorval said she didn't even know her art teacher Erin DeSimone submitted "Lillith" for the competition until she won the Dean's Choice Award.

"I was excited obviously, but I was also a little confused," she said. "I was like, 'little old me?'"

Dora Dorval, a senior at Brockton High School, painted "Lilith" which won the Dean's Choice Award at the 2024 Emerging Young Artists Exhibition at UMass Darmouth on Jan. 26, 2024.
Dora Dorval, a senior at Brockton High School, painted "Lilith" which won the Dean's Choice Award at the 2024 Emerging Young Artists Exhibition at UMass Darmouth on Jan. 26, 2024.

Brockton High students' artwork in MA Statehouse

Brockton junior Caiden Nguyen's self portrait of his up-close face wearing a black mask joined the 23 other art pieces from the exhibit on Jan. 26 that were put on display at the Statehouse.

"It's pretty insane that something I did for fun is somewhere important," he said. "I never thought it would reach this far."

Nguyen spent roughly five classes, over five hours of work, painting the piece that would end up a part of the Emerging Artists gallery. He said getting the right color for the mask was the most difficult part.

"I used a bunch of washes to get it dark enough," he said.

Brockton High School junior Caiden Nguyen's artwork was featured at the Massachusetts Statehouse from Feb. 5, 2024 to Feb. 9, 2024.
Brockton High School junior Caiden Nguyen's artwork was featured at the Massachusetts Statehouse from Feb. 5, 2024 to Feb. 9, 2024.

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When Nguyen found out he was selected for the exhibit, he said he was "sort of in disbelief."

For Aiyana Davis, a sophomore at BHS, her ceramic sculpture of an octopus earned her a spot in the exhibition despite the idea coming to her at the last minute.

"It switched a couple times on what it was going to be," she said.

She said she took her sculpture apart multiple times, and segments had fallen apart when she took it out of the kiln the first time. When she first fired the piece, it came out dark brown instead of the orangey-blue color she intended it to be.

"I was really upset when it came out," Davis said. "[But] I can learn from my mistakes."

A ceramic sculpture by Brockton High School sophomore Aiyana Davis was featured at the Massachusetts Statehouse from Feb. 5, 2024 to Feb. 9, 2024.
A ceramic sculpture by Brockton High School sophomore Aiyana Davis was featured at the Massachusetts Statehouse from Feb. 5, 2024 to Feb. 9, 2024.

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What inspires Brockton High artists?

Dorval's award-winning painting "Lillith" features a somber young girl — a reoccurring character in Dorval's art — playing a gold harp in a dark space.

"I have this character, and she's supposed to be a physical representation of the pressure," said Dorval.

She said the harp helps express the weight her character is feeling.

"The shape is really unique and it's a really big instrument," she said.

Brockton High School senior Dora Dorval's painting "Lillith" won the Dean's Choice Award at the 2024 Emerging Young Artists Exhibition.
Brockton High School senior Dora Dorval's painting "Lillith" won the Dean's Choice Award at the 2024 Emerging Young Artists Exhibition.

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Dorval has been creating art for as long as she can remember but didn't get serious about it until 2018. Now, she hopes to attend MassArt for college and wants to get a job in the arts.

"I wasn't aware it was something you could make a career out of," Dorval said.

Nguyen has also been drawing all his life and said he's known in school as "the artsy kid."

"It is one of my main hobbies," Nguyen said. "When the time comes, I just pull out my sketchbook and draw."

Davis made her octopus sculpture in the spring of last school year, just a few months after picking up ceramics for the first time. She said she had never tried it until last year as a freshman at Brockton High.

"This honestly is the best piece I've done so far," Davis said. "It made me really happy to push to make better stuff this year."

This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Brockton High School student artists win UMass Dartmouth competition