* 1st Place: Yesenia Del Cid – Virtual Jail House

Artist: Yesenia Del Cid
Title: Virtual Jail House
Grade: 9th grade
School: Bentley Upper School
Teacher: Artwork created independently

My piece, Virtual Jail House, is inspired by the current lockdowns that are preventing students from going to school and building friendships. The first thing you notice is the student in the screen with bars locking them inside the screen – we are prisoners. The prisoner symbolizes all students trapped in virtual school. This represents how we, the student, feel trapped inside this small screen. The student feels as though the feelings, and the emotions that build up from the stress of virtual school and work assignments keeps us trapped in a cage. The rush of indescribable emotions a student feels when rolling out of bed to sit in front of a screen. The student has a hard time participating in a break out room, and turning on their camera every day while masking the sadness.

The shadow of the hands that almost completely cover the student that is locked inside the computer represents the student being weighed down by stress, teachers and overbearing adults- who push us to “do our best” with virtual school. The shadow hands are suffocating and pressuring us. The hand that grips the child’s head is trying to control the student’s mind and how we think about virtual school.

I think one of the parts that I like most about my piece is that the student is faceless – no face, no mouth. The skin is made of static. I want other students who are struggling with online school to be able to connect and to be able to feel their feelings through this drawing. Even though we may be feeling similar emotions, we may have a different face or mask of how we deal or cope with the situation.

The photograph at the bottom, with the two people with covered faces standing beside the student represents the student’s fading memory of fun time with friends – almost forgetting the warmth of having a friend at all, and not having the opportunity to build new friendships. Ever since I started high school, I don’t really remember my friends from middle school. And, I have not had the opportunity to build new friendships at my new high school. (Of course I virtually talk to people but that is not the same as building a relationship with a person.)

The teddy bear next to the computer represents the kid in all of us. Even though we are getting older sometimes we need a break. The student still needs to feel the comfort of their parents, or really anyone at some point. Sometimes a student may feel like they can’t talk to their parents or an adult (another reason why I didn’t make a mouth for the student in the screen). Instead we go to things that won’t judge us no matter what, like toys, or other inanimate objects – that might give more comfort than any human or adult can give today from 6-feet apart. Crying into or hugging an inanimate object can provide comfort. Comfort can come from the things we believe, or want to believe care, even if they aren’t as warm as human hands. The teddy bear is the only escape from the Virtual Jail House because no human being is listening.