Elizabeth Causey used to build fairy houses in her backyard. Now the Friends School junior gets her artistic inspiration from other sources; most recently, from the song Circus by moody singer-songwriter Tom Waits.
Moved by feelings of enchantment the song evoked, Causey created an elaborate circus scene inside of a cigar box, complete with flying acrobats. The sculpture, LiveCircus, earned her a gold medal in the prestigious 2013 national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, presented by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.
The awards recognize promising teenage artists and writers. This year, they attracted more than 230,000 submissions in 28 categories from students in grades 7 through 12, representing 47 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and American schools abroad. The program represents the nation’s longest-running scholarship and recognition program for teenage artists and writers. Notable past recipients of the awards include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Like these renowned artists, Elizabeth, or Ebi, as she is known by her friends, creates art to move her audience. “The circus is intended to draw you into its own tiny world. I wanted viewers to feel like they had discovered an enchanted object, or a small piece of a different life,” she said. The whimsical sculpture, a bustling scene that includes graceful figurines swinging through the air on a trapeze, does exactly that.
It was the perfect project for the long, dull months of winter. That’s when Causey painstakingly put together the tiny circus sculpture. She built the tent walls with fabric. The back wall and floor she sprinkled with glitter. The figurines—each no taller than a quarter—she formed from polymer clay. She painted their clothes or made them from scraps of fabric, beads, and fake flowers. Collectively, the individual pieces made the circus scene come to life.
Causey plans to continue creating art in college, either at an art school or a liberal arts college. Beyond that she can’t say with certainty. But it’s likely that art will always play a part in her life, as it has since she was a little girl. “I feel like most people are making art from the time they are little. It’s not so much a question of when you start as when you stop,” she said.
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