AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Jessica McCann

The Elective’s digital art museum this week features metal sculpture made by Jessica McCann from Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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 metal sculpture made by Jessica McCann from Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Photo of a young Asian woman with a metal flower in her mouth

Here’s Jessica’s statement on the work:


“Throughout my body of work, I continuously explore: In what ways can I communicate how stress/anxiety impact me regarding my mental and physical health while having ADHD and depression?


“Through a labor-intensive metal fabrication process and with the intentional choice of nickel and aluminum, my body of work creates an intimate dialogue between the wearer and the art. Each piece is physically and conceptually restrictive, communicating the feeling of suffocation and entrapment, while at the same time, incorporating the beauty and fragility found in butterflies. The movement of the butterflies emphasizes the desire to escape from unwanted feelings. The background in each image can communicate a specific connotation. For example, images with a dark/black background give a negative connotation whereas images with a light/white background give a positive connotation. ‘Consumption’ communicates the feeling of restriction and suffocation.


“My jewelry works serve to bring awareness to society about mental health disorders and its impact on those affected. I strive to help others who are experiencing anxiety and/or depression to become empowered to express themselves and to know that they are not alone in this battle.


“I am extremely thankful for my art teacher, Mrs. Marangoni, because she has taught me so many important and valuable life lessons that I can carry with me for the rest of my life as well as artistic principles and techniques that I apply to my art. I am most appreciative of her unconditional support. She has guided me throughout my four years in high school, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. Additionally, she inspired me to pursue a career in art education.”


Here’s Jessica’s teacher Joan Marangoni on Jessica’s work:

“I first encourage students to explore media that they have not used in the past while completing work. I look for ways to coach them individually on this journey in skill development so that they can make a decision in media choice for their final AP body of work. I then have them move into an investigative/research phase to look at artists, museums and to explore the AP college board site and submissions from the past. We focus on sketchbook development last with collection of data, exploration of materials, note taking and gathering as they explore topic of interest. They are to create two small works based on two possible areas of discovery knowing that it may change. I encourage them to push the one of most interest as far as possible in thinking with aid through group discussion/association. As the students begin the body of work, there needs to be deep conversation and processing of where they are, what they want to say and how they can best convey that.

“Taking notes as students gather information and visual documents in research and practice as well as notes of the path of thought along the way help to clarify the growth and mindset behind the artistic process and aid the writing process in the end. Artists’ do not all follow one rote path to the creative process so allowing each student to go the path they need as you encourage and engage them in deep conversation can make a huge impact on the body of artwork they are able to create. The importance in teaching AP is to be alongside them in the journey to ask questions and challenge yet provide the freedom for them to push each piece or thought further until it has been exhausted so they can move to the next phase of discovery.

“Jing has taught me to be aware of the many phases of learning and to identify that with each student even though it is a vulnerable position for both student and instructor. I have taught Jing/Jessica for 4 years and she has consistently shown a thirst in knowledge for the field of visual art. She has reminded me the honesty of being intimidated, self-doubt, fear, avoidance, reflection and the power of creative attack and exploration. The role of teacher and of student are one in the same with age being the only true difference. We are both teacher and student forging through the self -discovery and visual storytelling by way of making art because our need to do so compels us.”

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

Photo of a young Asian woman wearing a metal collar

Power: I start to move closer towards the ultimate goal of freedom from my anxiety.

Photo of a young Asian woman with a heavy metal necklace in the shape of a winged animal

Strength: I start to move closer towards the ultimate goal of freedom from my anxiety.

Photo of a young Asian woman wearing a metal choker with metal butterflies

This wearable choker was created by piercing nickel sheet and using wire to connect butterfly wings to band. Butterflies represent fight or flight response, fighting to not let anxiety take over/control myself.

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