AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Brianna McCoy

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).

In the past, we’ve spotlighted artists who had their work included in AP Art online exhibitions. But starting this week, we’re doing something a bit different. While the AP Art team finalizes the next online exhibition, The Elective will share some of the most engaging pieces created by AP Art students this year—because the art is as urgent as our times.

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. In 2020, there is a lot to process and grapple with—and AP Art students have risen to the challenge. The work many of them submitted in their final portfolios is explicitly of the moment, from commentary on the covid-19 pandemic to the celebration of people of color to the nature of heroism in perilous times.

The work is often challenging and provocative but always insightful, inspiring, and expansive.

This week we feature a charcoal-and-graphite drawing made by Brianna McCoy from Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, WI.

Black and white self-portrait of the artist from the waist up, a young black woman, wearing a tank top with her arms folded and boxing gloves on her hands

Here’s Brianna’s statement on the work:

“I have been experimenting with artwork and drawing ever since I was a little kid. I enjoy seeing how far I can push the boundaries of my work. Whether that means with color, text or with texture, I would always push myself to make my next piece better than the last.

The first realistic drawing I made was a self-portrait with boxing gloves. When I first started drawing this piece, my intention was to create the best copy of the photograph that I possibly could, which is impossible. About halfway through the process, I realized the importance of communicating expression and gesture through my drawing. I started focusing more on that and believe that’s what made the piece strong.

From there, I eventually expanded into drawing family members and pushing my limits with color and subject matter. I experimented with where to include detail in my drawings and put an emphasis on the expression and emotion of the subjects in my work. This path led me to create "This is America," which demonstrates how my approach to drawing developed this year because it communicates a deep conceptual and political statement in addition to the realistic portrait of a young girl.”

Here are a few more pieces from Brianna’s portfolio:

Painting of a woman from the waist up, on brown, holding her hair back

This is an expressive picture of my cousin, made using white and black charcoal, graphite, and colored charcoal. I minimized some detail while giving attention to the face in the drawing.

Painting of a young woman on a white background overlaid with multi-colored circles with shapes inside that make them look like slices of orange or lemon

Using white and black charcoal, graphite, colored charcoal, and paint, I explored color and facial expressions.

Black and white portrait of a young black man

I used white and black charcoal, graphite, and colored charcoal to draw friends and family.

portrait of a young black man, from the waist up, his arms folded, on a blue background

Another piece focused on friends and family.

Illustration showing a young black girl in a pink shirt, looking at a figure off-frame who is pointing a gun at her head as a flag hangs from the barrel and the words "land of the free and home of the brave" are written on a chalkboard behind her

Working with white and black charcoal, graphite, colored charcoal, and colored pencils, I explored color, realistic form and lighting, color, politics, and storytelling and used a strong and deep meaning to express harsh reality of America.

Student statements are lightly edited for clarity.