By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
On average, more than 3 million people are expected to visit the U.S. Capitol in Washington each year.
Some of these people will go through the Cannon Tunnel, an underground walkway that connects the U.S. Capitol with the Cannon House Office Building — the oldest congressional office in the country. In that tunnel, there are hundreds of pieces of artwork that are created by high school students.
One of those pieces of art belong to 2018 Pope John XXIII Regional High School graduate Alyssa Talon.
Talon earned the opportunity to showcase her oil painting, “Girl on a bus,” for one year in the famous tunnel after winning New Jersey’s 11th District National Art Competition. Talon saw her painting displayed in the tunnel on Wednesday when she attended the 2018 Congressional Art Competition Winners’ Reception.
“It was unbelievable, considering that my painting is my first oil painting,” Talon said of having her painting displayed in the tunnel in a phone interview. “It’s incredible that my painting did so well that it is now in the Capitol. Going there and seeing that my painting is up on the wall was truly amazing.”
This type of recognition was not something Talon thought would happen to her when she first started painting at Pope John.
She liked creating watercolor and pastel sketches. She also liked using acrylic paints.
“My main concern for all of my artwork was to make them as best as I can,” Talon said. “I didn’t focus on creating these things for a competition. I just wanted them to look amazing.”
Mrs. Susan Elvena noticed the great artwork that Talon was producing. One day in class this past school year, she suggested to Talon to try oil painting.
“She knows how my artworks are and she said, ‘You are going to love oil painting,’’ Talon recalled. “It is a lot of blending compared to using just acrylic. I liked blending and acrylic, so oil painting was a perfect combination.”
It turned out to be the best option for Talon, who decided to oil paint a picture that her sister took while they were in Hawaii one year of a girl hanging out the window on a bus. Her stunning work impressed a panel of district artists enough that she was chosen as the winner of New Jersey’s 11th District National Art Competition.
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen announced in April that Talon won the competition.
“My annual Congressional Art Competition allows students to express themselves through many creative artistic mediums,” Frelinghuysen said in a statement on his website Frelinghuysen.house.gov. “I am beyond proud and admire each of the 63 artists who made submissions from 23 schools. I congratulate Alyssa Talon of Sparta (and Pope John XXIII Regional High School) on her winning work of art!”
Talon admitted that she was just happy to be involved in the competition in the first place. Even to this day, she still couldn’t believe that her work was picked as the winner for District 11.
“I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this,” Talon said.
When she was able to get her thoughts together again, Talon said she couldn’t have done this without the help of Mrs. Elvena and the Pope John art program.
“The art program has so much meaning to me,” Talon said. “It is where I met most of my friends. It is where my art experienced launched. Getting this type of recognition is a way for me to pay back the school for all the hours it has helped me.”
The recognition is a nice send-off for Talon before she attends Rutgers University to study engineering. While she will be concentrating in a field that is far different than art, Talon said will never lose her passion for art and will never forget the some of the final words that she heard while attending the Winners’ Reception in Washington.
“One of the co-chairs of the art competition said, ‘If you are ever having a bad day, just remember that your stuff is being viewed by hundreds and hundreds of individuals every day walking through the tunnel. At some point, someone will stop in front of it and will look at it. To me, that was like, ‘Wow!’”