Long hours pay off for teen artist at North St. Paul school

A North High School student will have a mixed-media piece displayed at the U.S. Capitol.

“Yellow Wallpaper,” a self-portrait by Jessica Points that was a winner in the 2013 Congressional Art Awards.

For three weeks, Jessica Points had worked on her mixed media piece, using thousands of pins and yards and yards of string to weave an intricate pattern over a 16- by 24-inch photograph of herself.

The piece would be called “Yellow Wallpaper,” and for the final weekend of the project, the North High junior spent six hours on a Friday, nine hours on a Saturday and finally 16 hours on a Sunday to finish it in time for a Monday deadline.

“When I was done I didn’t want to look at it,” Points recalled last week. “I was sick of it and thought, ‘The next time I see it I might like it.’ ”

Points, 17, not only has talent, but a good sense of timing, too. When she next saw her creation, she had captured first place in a congressional art show hosted by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum at the Union Depot in St. Paul.

“Yellow Wallpaper” now will be on display for a full year beginning June 26 in the main visitor’s entrance of the U.S. Capitol. Points, who lives in Maplewood, also was awarded two round-trip tickets to attend the opening, and plans to bring her father, Kevin, she said.

The honor caps a year in which Points blossomed from an earnest high school photography student into a “wildly successful” mixed-media artist, said North High art teacher Brian Reda.

Last November she came up with the idea of combining photography with string art for a piece called “War and Peace,” also an award winner, for no more profound a reason than she thought it might be cool, she said.

She created “War and Peace” and “Yellow Wallpaper” independent of her classroom work.

“Yellow Wallpaper” was inspired by an 1892 short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman. Points read the story as part of a U.S. Literature class in a unit devoted to realism, and found its depiction of a woman’s descent into mental illness to be memorable — and liberating, too.

In the story, the woman, apparently suffering from postpartum depression, is forced to stay in a room with yellow wallpaper. She becomes so obsessed with the color and the pattern, she imagines herself to be trapped within it.

To Points, the story ends on a triumphant note, and is a victory, too, she said, for the author, who was writing at a time when women struggled to have their voices heard.

By using a photograph of herself, Points said that she did not mean to imply that she identified with the character’s mental state. She said that she had intended to use someone else’s image, but it didn’t work out.

Ultimately, she used 100 yards of crochet string and 6,000 pins on the project. By coincidence, Reda said, the short story also has 6,000 words.

Reda served as a consultant for the project. But in terms of instruction, he takes credit only for helping Points with her photography skills. He saw no precedent for the way she approached the first project, “War and Peace,” he said.

Points still has a year left to go at the North St. Paul school and is considering a career as an art director, perhaps in advertising.

She also has an idea for her next art project: A photograph of a forest path to include the text of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” in Braille.

“You’re going to let people touch it?” Reda asked, to which she replied in the affirmative.

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