What’s Right with Schools: Thomaston High School senior’s impactful paintings inspire, speak to social justice issues

Whats Right With Schools

THOMASTON, Conn. (WTNH) — When it comes to art, there are some paintings that will stop you in your tracks. Laura Johnston is the art teacher at Thomaston High School and has a student who does just that.

Johnston tells News 8, she had Kiersten Sundell in her class back when she was the art teacher for the elementary school. Kiersten is now a senior at the high school, and Johnston says she knew Kiersten was special even years ago. 

Kiersten tells News 8, “It pretty much comes naturally to me. I’m a runner and so in that area of my life that’s not something natural for me, I have to try really hard to be good at that. But with painting, I just kind of sit down, and without really knowing what I’m doing I just paint.” 

With every brushstroke, her paintings come to life. There’s no denying each painted portrait is beautiful but for her, it’s about something deeper: “All of them have a message, they’re serious for a reason and I want people to see that.” 

Johnston adds, “To be able to have the skill to make someone stop and look at something even though it’s hard to look at, is a skill beyond her years.” 

On every canvas lies a complex issue beneath the surface, from social justice to environmental science.

“I want my paintings to make people think deeper to stop and look and question their behavior, the merit of their education, and how they’re operating.”

For her teacher, each assignment blows her away: “Having students who inspire you is why teachers want to be teachers. She’s one of those people who make it awesome to come to work every day.” 

Kiersten’s most recent piece is centered on animal cruelty.

“The idea behind it is the pig has the cognitive ability of a three-year-old child. I’m trying to demonstrate they are one and the same despite obvious differences.” 

A difficult painting with a meaning that challenges those who look at it. That is exactly what Kiersten wants to achieve with each piece. 

For her, this talent is a way of relaxing and she enjoys painting. She is hoping after graduation to pursue a career in social justice.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss