Student’s winning take on Impressionism

Dakota Thornton’s work to be displayed in D.C.

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Jun 6, 2014 at 12:01AM

To buy a print of Dakota’s painting, email him at dakotathornton12@gmail.com.

An impressionist painting by a Mountain View High School junior will soon hang in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. In order to see it for himself, the student is selling prints of his work so he can afford the trip.

Dakota Thornton, 17, won the Congressional Art Competition in May for Oregon’s second district, earning his painting, “No Longer a Mill,” a coveted audience of 435 congressmen and -women. The award comes with free plane tickets, but Dakota needs to raise money for his hotel and other expenses. To make it happen, he is selling $20 prints of his painting. He’s already sold 15 but thinks he needs to sell about 10 more to be in good shape.

“The basis of the competition is to pull together all the best high school artists in the nation and to get all their work in one place,” Dakota said. “It’s amazing to be considered a part of that.”

Dakota’s piece, which was the result of an art class assignment, is a landscape of the Old Mill District reflected at night in the water of the Deschutes River. His title, he said, was meant to draw attention to the transformation of Bend from a logging town to a destination city.

“We were supposed to do a pointillism-style painting, so that means use a whole bunch of small, little dots,” Dakota said. “The assignment was to do something in Oregon, some kind of landscape or cityscape. One of my big inspirations, or whatever, is Monet. I like his work with impressionism; there’s not much fine detail, but he used a lot of really colorful highlights to express meaning.”

Dakota’s teacher, Carrie Erickson, said she encouraged him to submit the painting right after he turned it in.

“It’s really beautiful, and he had a nice title for it, too,” she said. “It has depth to the concept, as what he’s painting is no longer used for what is was intended for. He’s very talented and just pops in and out of my classroom during the day. He’s always working on something, typically not assignments, and he just seems to create a buzz with his work.”

Dakota describes his entry into the contest as “a happy accident,” as he didn’t even plan to enroll in an art class.

“I used to live with my dad in town, and we had a lot of life issues, so it didn’t really work out,” Dakota said. “I ended up moving in with some family friends, and between all the issues with my dad and stuff, grades became an issue and I ended up having to drop a class. That’s how I got into art. In a symbolic, funny way, my life was going pretty downhill, and now by accident I end up winning some big competition. It’s good.”

Dakota loved art when he was younger but said he was always intimidated by his mother, who did professional work, and his sister, who was “really, really good.”

“I stopped for a long time, ’cause I felt inferior to them,” Dakota said. “No matter what I did, it never turned out as well as what they were working on. I was mostly just afraid how they’d look at my stuff, so I didn’t start doing it again until ninth grade, where my sister had left for college and my mom was living in Arizona. I had the ability to work on the art by myself without anybody looking or criticizing. Not that they did; I was just afraid they would. But I didn’t plan to take any art classes until it just happened this year.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com