Student artist blends creativity and convention

Naugatuck High School student Amanda Guglielmo shows off some of the work that makes her a standout in AP art classes.
Naugatuck High School student Amanda Guglielmo shows off some of the work that makes her a standout in AP art classes.

NAUGATUCK — Picture, in your mind’s eye, the stereotypical visual artist—an undisciplined, abstract thinker, head-over-heels in love with her creations.

Then envision the stereotypical military cadet—a commanding type-A personality with a penchant for organization and self-discipline, willing to sacrifice self for the benefit of God and country.

Now try to reconcile those two pictures into one cohesive whole. Stumped? Enter Amanda Guglielmo, Naugatuck High School’s mixed-media artist, slash Army Reserve cadet with an aesthetic preference for Claude Monet and animated film.

“I would love to be an animator,” Guglielmo said from behind a colorful stack of her varied work. “… to be able to tell a story through art.”

As she tells her own story, she displays page after page of visual art—mainly in the form of portraiture—in a variety of mixed media: pastel, watercolor, pencil, acrylic, and pen and ink to name a few.

“I try not to limit myself to one medium,” she said, smiling, eyes bright behind black plastic-frame glasses. “There’s no way you can express everything that needs to be expressed [with one medium].”

The 12th-grader experiments primarily with complimentary colors, light, shadow and perspective to achieve impressionistic results. Impressionism was developed in France in the 19th century and is characterized chiefly by a concentration on the general impression created by a scene or object and the use of unmixed colors and small strokes to simulate reflected light. The style was pioneered by the likes of Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Guglielmo also enjoys looking at the works of surrealists like Salvador Dali, the 20th-century Spanish painter most famous for his bizarre, dreamlike representations of everyday objects (such as clocks). She said that as interesting as the style is to observe and appreciate, she could “never allow [her]self to draw in that style.”

Rose-Ann Chrzanowski, 32-year arts instructor in the Naugatuck school system and Guglielmo’s artistic mentor said “I first met Amanda when she was in ninth grade … right away, I could see dedication there.”

Chrzanowski admires Guglielmo’s uncompromising style, well-roundedness, and gentle comportment.

The pair spend two periods a day together in Advanced Placement Two-Dimensional Design and AP Drawing, for which Guglielmo will receive college credits.

Chrzanowski said that on top of natural talent, Guglielmo has an understating of artistic elements and principles, as well as a strong background in art history. This, she said, requires self-discipline—a characteristic with which artists often struggle.

That discipline may be the result of a Catholic upbringing in a family with a long military history, or it could be just a natural characteristic of Guglielmo’s personality. Regardless, it shows in her artistic method; she goes through a series of rough sketches and “shadow-mapping” before working on a final product.

Chrzanowski said Guglielmo’s work is “beyond what you would expect to see in high school.” It has been on display at many NHS-sponsored art exhibits at local banks and municipal buildings.

Guglielmo hopes to study psychology at a Connecticut State University and go into human resources one day. Despite these more practical aspirations, she said she doesn’t plan to stop drawing anytime soon.