Junior’s photography recognized with prestigious Gold Seal award at VASE event

megan book smart

Dale took her winning self-portrait, “Book Smart,” in the Faulk Central Library.

At the State VASE event on April 4 and 5, junior Megan Dale received a Gold Seal for her self-portrait, “Book Smart.” Dale, senior Nicholas Olivares and sophomore Anastasiia Zinchenko were the only three students from McCallum to receive such a prestigious award. Gold Seal awards are given to the top 1 percent of student artists in the state of Texas.

“[It feels] awesome,” Dale said. “I’ve won some other awards this year, but this is the biggest one.”

Dale also received high awards at the Association of Texas Photography Instructors self-portrait contest, a photography competition at Austin Community College, and at the regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Dale’s winning photo, “Book Smart,” was inspired by her concentration and influence from Cindy Sherman, a self-portraitist.

“I was trying to show the stereotype of nerd enlarged so much that you can no longer see anything past that, so you just see the stereotype,” Dale said. “And it was by luck that I found the book that I ended up using in the photo, which was ‘How to Overthrow the Government,’ which was such a great book to find. It was just lying there.”

Dale took her self-portrait in the Faulk Central Library, near the University of Texas campus, with her dad’s help.

“I set up the frame of how I want it to be and then I have a friend or a parent hit the button,” she said.

In addition to taking part in numerous photography competitions and conferences, Dale is currently involved in a student-to-artist mentorship at The Contemporary Austin as a part of its Advanced Young Artists program.

“I was doing their other teen program, Teen Council, and before that it was called Club A,” Dale said. “They told me about Young Artists, which is another one of their programs. They have all these programs you have to apply to. So, I got into that and I did that for a semester, and then I applied to be an Advanced Young Artist and I got that. My mentor is Alyssa Taylor Wendt, who is a local artist who does mixed media and film stuff.”

During her six-month mentorship, which began in January, Dale will work alongside Wendt to prepare for a summer exhibit of their work at The Contemporary Austin. Dale said she is excited to receive one-on-one instruction and free art supplies.

“We’ve done a lot of fun little things,” Dale said. “We drew each other without looking at the paper, and those looked really weird and cool. We also went to a mannequin store and just looked at mannequins, and that was really crazy and fun. We went to a thrift shop. We had good ice cream. We just do fun little things to get to know each other, and now we need to start working on our final exhibit.”

Dale said she has also enjoyed seeing how Wendt lives and works as an artist.

“My favorite part is just seeing how, like, she lives because she is the same age as my mom, which is really weird,” Dale said. “It’s interesting to see how she lives as an artist and does all of her art. And she has her own studio, and we get to work in her studio and that’s really fun. It’s really cool to see a different lifestyle.”

While Dale has received a wealth of admiration for her most recent photographic work, she doesn’t plan to study photography specifically in college.

“I’m thinking more graphic design,” Dale said. “I would love to go to SCAD, Savannah College of Art and Design, so badly. I have this bag from them and several T-shirts and a keychain.” Dale said she also plans to pursue art education.

Reflecting on her past and present work, Dale said she tends to focus her art on society’s effect on one’s actions and opinions.

“I think society and how we see ourselves through that lens and how other people see us and how we’re affected by the world today [influences my work],” she said.


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