Recovering students say YES to portrait gallery:Local artist sees them for who they really are

J. M. Brown, Santa Cruz Sentinel

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When Meredith Larson sat for portrait artist Mary Alice Copp, the 18-year-old graduate of a high school for teens recovering from drug and alcohol abuse expected the painting would reveal a lot about her to others.

But the young woman, who has been sober for two years, didn’t expect the painting to get her thinking, once again, about how she sees herself. It’s a question that students of Youth Experiencing Success, a Santa Cruz program operated jointly by the county Office of Education and Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center, are often encouraged to contemplate.

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Artist Captures Newark’s Promising Students

Dan Bischoff, Star Ledger Staff

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Mary Alice Copp has just opened a show of portraits at the Newark Museum that are also for and by the museum. They are likenesses of gifted Newark high school students enrolled in the museum’s Science Explorers’ Program, which brings teenagers into the museum for semesters-long prep work before they go to college.

Copp, a Morristown painter who has been artist-in-residence at Harvard’s Lowell House, has been working on this project in the museum for the last four years, and the result is 15 portraits, more than half of them group portraits featuring two or three sitters. The conceit was that the subjects could choose where they wanted to be pictured. They could pose in front of any museum display, whether it was high art (like the carved stools in the “Expanding Africa” section or Hiram Powers’ “Greek Slave,” the Victorian marble with its chiseled chain links) or in front of a science exhibit. Copp would then meet her subjects for 10 hours or so of posing and produce, with some studio work on her own, the finished painting. You don’t often see a show that is made up of a dozen or more portraits of teenagers. Young people, after all, don’t usually have the money to commission an oil portrait. It’s even more rare to see portraits of so many inner-city kids, especially posed in an art museum setting. This very unusual show is just effortlessly charming, and the paintings far more interesting than you might imagine….

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