The idea senior Laundon Coleman had for her art assignment was to capture a moment from her childhood, something whimsical and nostalgic that would make her smile when she thought of it.
So she rifled through her memory the way we might when we hear an old song, and she thought of a trip to the Nashville Zoo’s petting farm with her little brother Haven, who was 3 or 4 at the time.
It was summertime and the place smelled of manure and straw. The goats were bleating like crazy, and the kids were sticking their hands out to feed them. Then it happened: a little white goat bound up onto Haven’s chest and he embraced it like it was a family pet - his head down, his eyes closed, his face a picture of joy.
Laundon seized that moment from her mind's eye to create “At the Petting Zoo,” a collage that won first-place in the HHS Art Show last week. A purple ribbon for “Best of Show” was still pinned to the easel Friday.
A confident young woman with a wave of dark hair, Laundon said the image caught the mood she was looking for while freezing a memory of her brother, who will be starting high school next year.
“It’s nice to think back,” she said, gazing over the work as though it were a picture in a photo album. “Now I’m seeing my brother slowly growing up and getting taller than me. I look at this and think, ‘I remember when I could pick you up.’”
Her piece is crafted from cardboard, pen, paint, and newspaper. The cardboard backing has ridges carved into it with a razor knife, giving it a texture like the trunk of an old tree; the newspaper is cut into a dozen bubble shapes of varying size pasted around the image of the plaid-shirted, tousled-haired Haven hugging the goat.
“I thought the newspaper was a good idea because it’s something that is always there, like memories,” she explained.
The bubbles were also deliberate: “Bubbles and children go together. It implies a playful time.”
Laundon, 18, started the piece in October or November and finished about a month later. She recently entered it into a Belmont Collage art show and won first-place in the mixed-media category.
This run of success is sweet for the senior, who has been drawing and creating since she was old enough to grip a marker. After HHS, she plans to spend a year at Middle Tennessee State for some basic coursework and then transfer to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has already been accepted.
Whatever happens from there, “At the Petting Zoo” will always be special to her – and to her family.
“When my mother saw it, she was like, ‘I’m keeping this.’”