Frankford sophomore Danelly Cabrera’s portrait was selected to represent local high school art in the nation’s capital.
Danelly Cabrera says she is easily recognizable in a busy high school hallway because of how big her hair is.
“Everybody notices me by my hair,” the 10th-grader at Frankford High School said with a laugh.
So when she was tasked with creating a profile image in Adam Anderson’s photo media class, she played with that part of her identity. She created a portrait of her hair blending into branches of a tree, with birds surrounding her head.
“What inspired this artwork is my thoughts and ideas,” she said of “Double Exposure.” “Everything was basically flowing out of my hair.”
Danelly’s main goal with the artwork was to inspire its audience, which apparently worked. U.S. Rep. Robert Brady selected the portrait to represent Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District in the 2018 Congressional High School Art Competition.
Her work will be on display in the tunnel of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. for 10 months, starting this June. The display is expected to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people.
“I was pleased to select the work of this talented high school student, new to Philadelphia and the First Congressional District, who is also an immigrant,” Brady said. Danelly’s family is originally from the Dominican Republic.
“In these politically confusing and troubled times in our nation, it is important that we recognize the talents, aspirations and contributions of those who have come to America for a better life,” he said.
Winning came as a surprise to Danelly and Anderson, who at first thought they had missed the deadline to apply. It wasn’t the first recognition it received, though — it had previously been on display at The Center for Learning Through the Arts Award, a high school arts display run by the School District of Philadelphia.
Danelly hasn’t had too much artistic experience — before this class, she had taken only required art courses.
“She’s set herself a high bar,” Anderson said.
The portrait came about from Anderson’s assignment that challenged students to overlay their profiles with naturistic images. She had also created a cartoon version of herself for the class, which was also showcased at the school district’s display.
“I always like art that gives the extra line of thought behind it that allows the viewer to create their own story, which was the nice thing about Danelly’s,” Anderson said.
The idea to add the birds started out as a joke for her hair being like a “nest,” but Danelly quickly grew to appreciate the images, and that’s when she had the idea that the birds could represent thoughts. Danelly has a lot of thoughts about thoughts — she hopes to become a psychologist when she grows up, perhaps in the criminal justice field.
“I just like to deal with people’s minds, and I want to know what caused them to commit the crime,” she said.
Anderson had an idea to blend her talents.
“There’s art therapy that’s in line with psychology that you can look into,” he suggested to her.
Outside of the photo media room, Danelly also played on the school’s softball team, starting as a pitcher and transitioning over to catcher.
She hopes the birds (or thoughts, depending on how you view it) circling her head help to inspire other people.
“A lot of my friends said wow, I’m joining that class next year,” Danelly said. “It’s really a big thing not just for me, but for other people who might just want to get interested in art.”
“This school has very large potential, and we have a very large sect of students who are great artists and great all-around students like Danelly,” Anderson said. “It’s nice for the school to be recognized where we may not always get that recognition.” ••