Merced student's self-portrait heads to the Capitol

Self-portrait wins art competition

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comJuly 8, 2013 

Elizabeth Palafox enjoys doing portraits of people. Others, including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, also like what Palafox does.

The 17-year-old Merced High School senior won the 16th Congressional District art competition. Her self-portrait, titled "Valley Girl," will hang in one of the main entrances leading to the U.S. Capitol from the House Office buildings for a year.

Palafox said it is very challenging to capture all the details involved in a person's portrait.

"I was proud of myself for at least trying it," Palafox said. "At least I was testing my abilities. It's really cool that I won."

Jessica Kahanek, an aide for Costa in Washington, D.C., said art competition winners were selected by citizen input gleaned from an online survey as well as a panel of judges.

Luis Ortega, a Fresno High School student, took third place with an oil on panel painting titled "Initial Blast." Ortega's work will hang in Costa's Merced office for a year.

In her contest application, Palafox described her work as a piece that defines women in the Central Valley who don't give up on their dreams and live large, no matter the challenges.

Costa spoke about Palafox's winning entry during a speech Thursday on the House floor. Palafox watched the proceedings from the congressman's Merced office, Kahanek said.

Merced High School art teacher Julie Rivard said Palafox is super-talented and her art work for the competition was outstanding. Rivard said Palafox did a good job with pastels, and that it's not the easiest media to work with.

Palafox, who is unsure about a career, wants to work with art. As a junior she took an art class and will be enrolled in Rivard's advanced placement Art 3 class this fall.

Palafox has enjoyed painting all her life, drawing inspiration early from her father's art. She has done about 10 portraits.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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