St. Stephen’s Student Artwork is Featured at Bullock Texas State History Museum

Congratulations to Leela Weisser ’25 whose work is on display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum as part of the 2023-24 Texas Art Education Association Youth Art Month Exhibition. Weisser’s mixed media painting “Hanging in the Balance of Border Politics” caught the attention of the nationally recognized program which not only showcases talented students across Texas but also promotes the importance of art appreciation. As part of the process, teachers can only select one student’s work of art and TAEA educator and St. Stephen’s Visual Arts Instructor Elizabeth Zepeda chose Weisser’s to represent SSES in the art competition.

“I selected Leela's work because of its strong visual narrative that resonates with the values of our community,” said Zepeda.

The vibrant painting of a young, smiling boy sitting on a swing is extremely personal to the Upper School student, as her goal is to shine a spotlight on marginalized people at the border. Weisser met the 4-year-old subject of the painting about two years ago when she and her family volunteered at the non-profit Casa Esperanza food kitchen while on a visit to Arizona.
There were lots of children playing and Weisser said her cousin started pushing the boy on the swing. Weisser shot a video of the boy’s laughter and his joy became the inspiration for her painting which she describes as a stark contrast from what the little boy had been through.

“He had a really hard background,” said Weisser, “He and his brother witnessed his father killed by a [drug] cartel member, there's a lot of death in the area.”

Soon after her family returned home, Weisser started working on the painting. After hearing about the rising drug cartel death toll in the little boy’s town last fall, Weisser was motivated to finish the piece as soon as she could. Weisser said the town of 2,000 people was nearly wiped out and there’s a strong possibility the little boy was also killed. 

“So I decided to add the halo because that's what made it really a mixed media piece about immigration,” said Weisser. “I think he was waiting for asylum in the United States, so the fact that his life could have been on the line because of politics and prejudice in the U.S. is really, really sad and a lot to take in.”

Weisser used oil paints to create the boy’s beaming face, and decided to use all acrylic to create a more 3D effect on the boy’s body, bringing the background to life. Weisser wanted to find a chain that resembled swing set chains. SSES Fine Arts Technical Director Robert Whyburn (a.k.a the “prop master”) found exactly what she needed in the theater department. Weisser spray painted the plastic chains yellow and glued them to the canvas.

The Texas Art Education Association Youth Art Month Exhibit runs until March 31, 2024, and the exhibit is also featured here on their website.
“I'm really, really grateful that it's [next to] the Capitol,” said Weisser. “I think it exceeds my goals, and I think that's where it needs to be.”

Weisser will be honored at an awards ceremony at the museum on March 10, and the Office of the First Lady of Texas will select artworks to display at the Governor's Business Office for a year.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
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