Barack Obama. Drawing by Suiyenah Chen.
Around the beginning of November in MHS, many students began to notice portraits and caricatures of several well known political figures in between the cafeterias. These politicians included Congresswoman Katherine Clark, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Former Presidents of the United States George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and current President of the US Donald Trump. These portraits were produced in Studio 2 Honors, one of the art classes Joseph Luongo teaches here at Malden High School.
The story of these portraits goes way back to 1979, when Luongo was attending MassArt. The mayor of Boston at the time was Kevin White. His wife, Kathryn White, applied for a job at MassArt, and she was seemingly qualified but she did not end up with the job.
The whole fiasco that came after went like this. Luongo says “A few weeks later, mysteriously, there was a bill in the house to have UMASS take over MassArt. In other words, close Mass College of Art, and make it essentially, the art department of UMASS Boston.” He says that “no one could ever prove it, but most people agree that the reason why they wanted to close it was because Mayor Kevin White’s wife didn’t get the job.”
The president of the school at the time, decided that he would stop this from happening by proving MassArt’s value. He did that by loading a train with about 40 students and then letting them loose in the halls of Congress where they did portraits and caricatures of a bunch of the well known senators and the congressmen there. With Senator Ted Kennedy’s and House Speaker Tip O'Neill’s help, the students got to talk to other senators from states other than Massachusetts, and they got to draw them. When the kids arrived at the school, they had a show with the drawings done of the senators. The show put the college in a positive light. A few weeks later, the bill just became consigned to oblivion.
In the class Luongo says that the students had to draw “one portrait and one caricature.” The portraits were graded on things like proportion, value, contrast, likeness, and the same things for the caricatures. He also says that the “formal portrait had to be in pencil, but the caricature could be in any medium or color.”
Luongo says one of the standout portraits for him is the one of Robert Mueller, due to it being “very complex.” However, he also appreciates the one of Charlie Baker because it’s “very simple and very well done” and that it looks “just like him.”