A painting of two migrant children holding a sign that reads “Bring Our Mom Back” will hang in the US Capitol for the next year as one of the winners of the Congressional Art Competition for high school students.
Dominick Cocozza, 17, of Virginia made the painting — titled “Immigration” — which features two concerned-looking children holding the sign. He created the piece as part of his art class portfolio focused on immigration before submitting it to the Congressional Art Competition, he told CNN on Wednesday.
“I had seen lots of pictures of kids carrying signs and stuff,” he said. “So I thought by doing this one, I could mix the message in with my artistic abilities and capture that moment.”
Rep. Don Beyer announced Cocozza’s piece as the winner from his district at a reception Monday.
“This year’s Congressional Art Competition winner, Dominick Cocozza, is a student at @YorktownHS,” the Virginia Democrat tweeted. “His painting, titled ‘Immigration,’ will hang in the US Capitol for the next year. It is very striking.”
In a statement to CNN, Beyer congratulated Cocozza and said he looked forward to having the painting in the Capitol.
“His work expresses feelings many of my Northern Virginia constituents share,” Beyer wrote. “I think it will make a strong impression on the Members of Congress, staff, visitors, and tourists who pass it every day.”
Cocozza, who was adopted from Guatemala as an infant and has grown up in Virginia, stressed that the painting did not represent any part of his lived experience. Usually a hyper-realist painter, he used mixed media and a palette knife for the piece to portray “these kids as being very vibrant and very loose and very brave.”
“I think that immigration is a human conflict that deserves an empathetic and legal solution — I illustrated this particular issue to inform my peers on this ongoing crucial conflict,” he told CNN. “I want my viewers to be able to empathize with the conflict that’s currently going on.”
The painting was selected by a panel of seven National Art Education Association-member judges out of 37 submissions from high school students from across Virginia’s 8th District, Beyer’s communications director, Aaron Fritschner, told CNN in an email.
The competition features one piece of winning artwork from each congressional district, with over 650,000 students participating since its inception in 1982, according to its website.