AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Conner Malone

The Elective’s digital art museum this week features a painting made by Conner Malone from Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Welcome to The Elective’s digital art museum, dedicated to the incredible work of AP Arts students. Each week we highlight a work or series created in one of the AP Arts concentrationsAP 2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, and AP Drawing (the AP Program also offers Art History and Music Theory)—as well as a statement from the artist (and, occasionally, their teacher).

From the first cave paintings to contemporary breakthroughs in virtually reality, art, in all its forms, has been a crucial way for people to process, make sense of, comment on, and grapple with the world around them. After more than a year of life in a pandemic, AP Art students have risen to the challenge of processing and making sense of the challenges—and opportunities—that have come from this perilous time. The work they submitted in their final portfolios is explicitly of the moment. It’s often challenging and provocative, but always insightful, inspiring, and expansive.

This week we feature a painting made by Conner Malone from Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Painting of a young person holding a silver necklace in their mouth, the other side attached to a porcelain horse, a heart charm hanging in between them

Here’s Conner’s statement on the work:

“As a transgender man in Arkansas, most of my self-expression has always been funneled towards art. Painting has offered a sense of autonomy and solace. This year in AP Drawing, I studied my own relationship to gender, and how isolation has affected it.

“I began medically transitioning in December of 2019, so a typically social phenomenon has been internalized completely by the pandemic. Art served as a navigational tool during a confusing and isolated time. Gender is a performance, but who is your audience when you’re alone in your room? I am transitioning, I am watching myself transition, I am painting the transition process, documenting and thus controlling how it is experienced. The porcelain figures reflect this autonomy and abstraction. Through drawing, I have found strength in fragility, and confidence in non-conformity.

“The titles of the two selected paintings are ‘Voluntary Femininity’ and ‘Cherub.’ The former explores feminine motifs, such as the painted nails and necklace, as well as the control I have over my own expression. Cherub was painted on glass and focuses on how I’ll be seen once it’s safe to re-integrate into society. I chose glass because I prefer a smooth surface. Both pieces are in oil paint, for its vibrancy and depth.

Painting of a porcelain cherub holding a black frame

"In the past year, I’ve learned how to purposefully inject meaning into my art, in a way I’d never been able to. All of my pieces serve a purpose towards my investigation. Thankfully, the uniqueness of my situation made brainstorming easy; Executing the ideas was the only challenge. Luckily, I had fantastic help in doing so.

I moved to Little Rock Central my junior year of high school—the support I’ve received has made a world of difference. Both of my art teachers have been professional artists- their guidance has been profound. This was a difficult year for learning, but Mr. McCann’s enthusiasm and insight made drawing fun. He has helped tremendously with my portfolio, as well as applying to galleries and exhibitions. I am extremely lucky to have found Central’s art program; Mrs. Rousseau runs an incredible school.”

Here’s Conner’s teacher Jason McCann on Conner’s work:

And here are a few other works from Conner’s portfolio:

Painting of porcelain figures - a man, a married couple, and a cherub holding a silver necklace -- with a pair of black glasses in the background

Investigating the impact of social norms and the passage of time on my transition.

Painting of a porcelain figure of a clown seen through a pair of glasses

Satirizing the performative nature of gender.

Painting of a still life with bear, clown, bird, and flower-like shapes

Direct observational still life.

Student and teacher statements are lightly edited for length and clarity.