Junior Joy Deng wins $1000 with her picturesque World AIDS Day piece

Joy Deng beaming with her congratulatory certificate (Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Vanguard Instagram)

“Awkward.” That was the word that came to mind when junior Joy Deng found out that she won $1000 with her spectacular Best In Show Finalist World AIDS Day Awareness artwork for the CCM Foundation’s Art on the Streets competition.

Created in 2006, the CCM Foundation, otherwise known as the Changing Communities Movement, serves as a platform that actively advocates for sexual disease awareness and women’s health through the medium of art. Since 2015, the CCM Foundation has harnessed high school and middle school students’ artistic abilities through a contest called Art on the Streets, where hundreds (the highest average being 700) of participants create art pieces based on a prompted theme一in this case, World AIDS Day. Held annually on December 1, World AIDS Day is dedicated to raising awareness to the AIDS pandemic and those affected by HIV internationally. After discovering the opportunity to commemorate this occasion from CVHS art teacher Raymond Rodriguez, Deng decided to participate and employ her specialty to create change through her artistic expression.

“So I was in our class, sitting there, working on something for art. Then, Mr. Rodriguez [called out my name], and I was like, please don’t call me up, and he was like, ‘come to the front of the class.’ I [was] very confused because I didn’t know what was going on,” Deng said, completely clueless. “I honestly just really wanted to go back to my seat and go back to what I was doing, [then] he was like, ‘it’s for your World AIDS Day competition thing, you won it!’” Deng recalled.

Besides a concoction of discomfort and一characteristic to her name一joy that arose when hearing that she was the only winning finalist from a high school, Deng had dealt with a plethora of motivational barriers during the creation process of her art piece, from an ever-so-annoying art block to the pressures of completing the piece before the ticking deadline.

“I procrastinated on it for so long because I felt like I didn’t have a good idea for it. I redrew it and redrew it and redrew it again maybe three times before I actually ended up with what I had. I don’t know, it was a complicated process. It’s kind of a fever dream to me now. I remember working on it in PreCal real close to the submission deadline, [and] I had Mr. Ceja print it out for me, real close to the deadline of the project,” Deng said.

As for Deng’s artistic origin story, she has been drawing forever, ever since she can remember. Her parents enrolled her in an acrylic painting class, and she has simply always loved drawing, but her relationship with this creative outlet has been a dizzying rollercoaster of sorts.

“I have a complex with art,” Deng said. “I don’t draw very often, but I don’t know, it’s just something that I do. My parents aren’t super supportive of it, but they’re not against it either. So in middle school and in freshman year, I had a lot of conflicts on whether it was something that I actually wanted to do… but I realized that this is something that I like to do and that it’s a part of my identity,” Deng expressed.

Inspired by Instagram artists and surrounded by many fellow talented friends, Joy’s encouragement to create art is often fueled by an “egotistical” desire to keep up with her creative comrades. However, with her AIDS awareness artwork, she had a different motivation.

“I honestly just wanted to make a piece that looks visually appealing that celebrated World AIDS Day. I wanted to express it in a creative way… like, for example, a red ribbon is the symbol for AIDS, so I originally started with the idea of turning it into a hair tie for someone. And I wanted to make it look pretty because I feel like AIDS is something that a lot of people avoid saying or talking about, so that’s what I was doing [there]. I [also] wanted it to look a little bit festive with the flyers and stuff because it’s a celebration of [bringing] awareness to it,” Deng explains.

Joy Deng’s World AIDS Day artwork (Photo courtesy of Joy Deng)

Deng’s imagination truly came to life in her artwork, evident in the final product. Sparkling hues of crimson and eye-catching electric cyans paint the scene, a young woman the main focus of the composition. Executed in the manner she envisioned, with details as thoughtful as Deng’s incorporation of a symbolic bright red hair bow and flyers marking the date Worlds AIDS day falls upon, it’s no wonder her artwork was appreciated and acclaimed.

“Art comes a little bit naturally to me. During a sketching phase, I envision it in my head before I start producing it. I kind of mess around with the color scheme until I get something that looks right to me, or I feel fits the mood of what I’m trying to go for. I don’t have a really methodical approach to art,” Deng said.

This instinctual process ultimately led Deng to racking up more and more wins, ranging from random contests she found online to Scholastics. Though most art contest prizes would consist purely of the accolade and bragging rights, Deng was surprised to find out she would be the recipient of something bigger一$500 for herself and $500 for art supplies for CVHS.

Deng’s World AIDS Day Artwork winner certificate (Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Vanguard Instagram)

“Before I submitted it, he didn’t tell us anything about the prize. I honestly just did it to do it because it was a time of my life where I really wanted to push myself, to try harder, and be more serious about art, so I decided I should take whatever opportunities I can get.”

Planning to invest the prize money into stocks, and perhaps a well-deserved, congratulatory cake to share with her mom, Deng hopes to take inspiration from this achievement and incorporate the arts into her future pursuits.

“I know for sure I don’t want to be an artist artist, like a freelancer who just does art, because I know for sure that will kill my passion for it. I’ve been thinking about majoring in design, and or doing something related to that. So it’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m drawing every day to make a living,’ and it’s more like, ‘this along with other skills will help me do it,’” Deng concludes.