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Our friend on the museum wall

Zexuan (May) Wu
San Domenico student Zexuan (May) Wu winning the 2022 Congressional Art Competition with her drawing “We Are the Keeper of Tomorrow”

“Every year, the Congressional Art Competition serves as a testament to our students’ creative talents,” Congressman Jared Huffman said. “I want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to our winner Zexuan Wu.”

In May 2022, Rep. Huffman announced Zexuan Wu from San Domenico School as the winner of the 2022 Congressional Art Competition for California’s Second District with her work “We Are the Keeper of Tomorrow.” The girl portrayed in the art work is Zexuan (May). Our friend whom we see every day at school was “hanging” in the U.S. Capitol for a year. She then received a round-trip ticket to Washington, D.C. to attend the awards ceremony. 

Sheila Xu, one of Wu’s closest friends, shook her head and laughed when I mentioned Wu’s achievements.

“She was so humble about it. I didn’t know anything about it until I saw her location in DC, and I don’t think anyone knew about it at all until they saw the San Domenico instagram post that was like congratulations to May…” Xu said.

If I don’t tell you, you probably wouldn’t know that her painting “Shape of Lose” was displayed in the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. And you probably wouldn’t know that she was the one who has been consistently designing the chalkboard that informs people about the recent campus events and festivals for the past two years or so. Behind every elaborate chalkboard design you see is her and other members’ hard work and dedication.

“I love arts, and I think chalkboard drawing is a very creative form of art and just a fun thing to do in general,” Wu said.

Her designs go beyond aesthetics and convey the essence of different festivals and events. She spends time understanding every theme, crafting a draft on her iPad before transferring it to the chalkboard with other students. For the last design, she learned about the stories of the Mid-Autumn Festival and incorporated key elements such as lanterns and mooncakes into her design to create a visually captivating and culturally resonant depiction.

Among the many works, she noted that her favorite one was the collaboration with lower school students during Mental Health Month. 

“We gave an educational lesson about mental health to the lower school students and asked them to create art pieces related to mental health,” Wu said. “After all, I integrated all their elements into one chalkboard drawing and finished coloring it with the fifth graders.”

Wu drawing the Mental Health Month chalkboard with the fifth graders together

Recently, she has been working on the installation of an interactive painting machine that serves as an alternative to street portrait artists, using facial recognition technology to detect pedestrians’ facial features and instantly create stylized portraits of them with an AI image generator. 

“I had to learn Python code for this new project,” Wu said.

Her tone shifted slightly when she talked about learning new skills, as programming is something she has never tried before. The rise in her voice reflected her enthusiasm and excitement in the subject matter. Her art career has been one of stepping into the unfamiliar to build on what has already been there to make her own works better. And there it was, the thing that kept her passionate for arts for so long–a creative spirit.

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About the Contributor
Alice Wang
Alice Wang, Copy Editor
Alice Wang is a senior at San Domenico and a contributor for The Panther Press. She is an international student from China and loves traveling.

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