“I’m afraid of being breathless. Though my parents consistently told me how much they loved me, I found it difficult to believe them: it felt like they were voluntarily choking the life out of me by smoking cigarettes. Anywhere I went with them, the smoke followed–I wasn’t safe. After cleaning my fish tank one day, I realized that my fish’s ability to breathe could just as easily be revoked by a skipped cleaning. Taking a step further back, I contemplated how my parents smoking can be analogous to carbon emission from fossil fuels. In both scenarios, there is a difficult choice to stop, and there is a negatively impacted group. To articulate this relationship, I painted emission escaping the confines of a fish bowl society, approaching the viewer with the same threatening grasp that I felt when suffocated by cigarette smoke. Everyone deserves the right to fresh air, and I hope my work can inspire more conversations.”
–Jessee Steele, age 16, student at NC School of Science and Math.