Mary Margaret Groves describes birthday cakes as iconic "symbols of days belonging to people."
The fact that her vibrant pastel piece, "Birthday Cake," expressed that emotion well enough to get her work accepted into the Young Tennessee Artists exhibit is the icing on the cake.
Groves and Brooke Craig are two of 34 talented teens to be selected for the fourth Young Tennessee Artists, sponsored by the Frist Center for the Visual Art in Nashville. The exhibition, which takes place every two years, will be on display at the museum through April 21.
Groves, 19, the daughter of Ann and David Groves, is an alumna of Girls Preparatory School and is now a freshman at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.
Craig, daughter of Renee and Glen Craig, is a graduate of Notre Dame High School and is an 18-year-old freshman art major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Maggie Carrigan, media and public relations manager for the Frist, says 800 students from across the state submitted artwork for the show. To be eligible, students had to be enrolled in either Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Studio Art programs during the 2012 academic year, says Carrigan.
"The committee looked for work that did not seem to be simply in response to an assignment but revealed something surprising about the vision or personality of the artist," says Mark Scala, Frist Center chief curator and one of three jurors for the exhibition.
"In Mary Margaret Groves's pastel of the birthday cake, for example, I was intrigued by the fact that she transformed such a simple subject into something that is somehow mysterious, vital and monumental," Scala says. "At the same time, it brings us back to the unfiltered realm of a child's senses ... the pastel also conveys a feeling of loss, as if the extinguished candles and smoke swirling over the cake signify regret at the passing of time."
In her artist's statement, Groves explains that she's "always been fond of birthdays because it's a special day that people identify themselves with."
"I think I've always been on the search for my identify and art is the best way that I've been able to define myself so far," she says.
It wasn't until her junior year at GPS that she became serious about her artwork, Groves says, and she credits GPS teacher Mary Carrithers and a summer study at the Governor's School for the Arts with developing her talent.
When photographing "Stolen Angel," Craig says she wanted to create a "mysterious image" to explore the folklore of angels. Her friend, Walker Montgomery, served as the model.
"My concentration was on dreams. I had a dream about an angel in chains. I started doing research about purgatory and that led me to do the photograph in this way," she explains.
She took her first photos on a trip to Maine with her grandmother when she was 14, she recalls. When her mother took some of the vacation shots to Art Warehouse for framing, the staff there was impressed enough to help the teen develop her skills.
At age 15, her parents bought her a Nikon D-60, which she still uses.
Craig credits former Notre Dame art teacher Carrie Pendergrass with nurturing her interest in film photography as well as painting and drawing. The photographer says she made a trip to the Frist two weeks ago to see the Young Artists exhibition.
"It was pretty shocking to see my piece in an actual museum."