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Works of pain and anger

Mary A. Castillo

One year ago, Erin Fusco, a 16-year-old visual arts student at

Laguna Beach High School was getting ready for school when her friend

called and said the words many others over the world heard that


morning, “Turn on the news.”

“My dad turned on the TV but I refused to watch it,” Erin said,

remembering Sept. 11. “It wasn’t until I was in second period biology

when someone turned on the TV and I fully realized what had



After the images made an indelible mark on her, she was eager to

express her awakening to such intense fear and hatred that not only

sparked the attacks but reverberated after them. Her outlet was her

computer graphics piece that became part of a class project

supervised by Peter Tiner.

“I wanted to have a platform for the kids to respond to America at

war,” said Tiner, chair of the visual arts department at the high


school. “I wanted them to be able to process a sense of place and

feeling through the work and their imagination.”

The body of work completed last February is provocative and

sometimes disturbing in its honesty. Laguna Art Museum officials were

so struck by the collection that they displayed it last April and

May. The pieces were recently returned from its place at the Sawdust

Festival. To honor the memory of those lost on Sept. 11 and the

students’ work, Tiner created a book that he presented to the


Festival of Arts, a supporter of the visual arts program at the high

school and to the Laguna Art Museum.

“It was a great voice for the kids,” he said. “They felt they

could say something and people responded in kind.”

Erin deliberately chose fear and how it creates hatred and death

as the theme of her work. Her piece shows a monster bursting out of a

man whose limbs are severed and bleeding.

“I hoped when people looked at it they would be afraid of it,” she

said. “I hoped they’d be confused by it.”

She explained that the monster is a symbol of the evil in all

humans and how it is born out of fear.

“It’s coming out of him,” she said, pointing to the man with a

look of absolute fear distorting his face. “He’s the cause of his own

death because of his fear.”

Fellow classmates Sasha Kuznetsova and Jamie Andrews, both 17,

took a more personal approach with their pieces.

Sasha used her own experience growing up in Russia and hearing

about the wars in nearby Chechnya.

In the foreground of her piece there is a bedroom scene colored in

feminine tones with an empty bed and a portrait of a couple. Outside

the bedroom’s windows a fierce battle rages in black and white with

soldiers and approaching tanks.

“I had never been to New York and I did not know these buildings,”

she said. “But it reminded me of how I felt watching the news about


This summer she traveled with her family to Manhattan where they

made a special visit to ground zero.

“I saw where there was nothing and the other people there were sad

and angry,” she said. “It was awful knowing there were once buildings

standing there.”

With two friends in the military, Jamie endeavored to show how the

war on terrorism affects relationships between men and women. Her

pastel shows a soldier’s bare, scarred torso that is lovingly

caressed by the hand of his wife or girlfriend.

“The blackness is surrounding him,” she explained. "[Even though]

the wife can’t understand what he has been through, but she’s trying

to heal him from what he has seen and experienced.”

War is something that Jamie never thought she would experience on

a personal level in her lifetime. But watching it on TV and knowing

what her military friends are going through, she feels that what is

happening in Afghanistan is affecting everyone around her.

“I always heard about war from my grandparents and parents,” she

said. “An event like this bursts your bubble.”

But in spite of the attacks and the persistent fears of future

incidents, these three artists feel even stronger about the relevance

of art in today’s world.

“Art is a form of expression,” Erin said. “It will always be

important in any time period.”

* MARY A. CASTILLO is a news assistant for the Coastline Pilot.

She covers education, public safety and City Hall.