HHS Alum Christian Maya Visits Honors Art Class

Courtesy of D. Russo

Art by Christian Maya

Abby Provencher, Contributor

A 2008 Hawthorne High School Alum, Christian Maya, recently visited Daniele Russo’s Honors Art class to teach acrylic painting techniques.

Russo had invited Maya as a guest speaker to give the students a professional’s view as they started their acrylics unit. After graduating HHS, Maya attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City, and Russo wanted him to share his knowledge from FIT with the class. Instead of using the acrylics himself, Maya walked around to each student at his or her easel and talked to them about their works. “Since they’re honors,” Russo explained, “they understand it and can follow along [his instruction].” In addition to acrylic techniques, Maya also taught students to make their own black paint (instead of using premade paint from a bottle) and the different appearances of one color depending on the background behind it—such as a green apple on a white background versus the same apple on a black background. Kayla Gordon, a senior in the Honors Art class, enthused that “he taught us some great techniques that made me more comfortable transitioning into acrylics.”

Russo distinctly remembers Maya’s time as an art student at HHS. “He came into my class his freshman year,” she recalled, “and he was clearly interested in pursuing art. He showed me drawings of parrots he’d done, the kind you did in middle school art class. By the end of ninth grade, he was into acrylics and had grown a lot as an artist.”

Maya’s art work can still be seen around HHS, such as in the wall mural of the city block by the senior lockers and cafeteria door and in the painted bear cutouts throughout the school. “He gave a lot to HHS,” Russo reflected. The most memorable of his works, for Russo, was a surreal style series he did, including one of an egg that Russo still has propped up in her classroom. “For a senior,” she praised, “it was really advanced.”

Fortunately, Maya was able to use art to start a career after graduating FIT and is now a visual designer for True Religion Brand Jeans in Manhattan. Maya helps create the company’s  visual displays and even gets to travel to places like Miami for work. Although his work for True Religion, such as figure studies, is different from what he has studied, Maya still paints his own artwork on the side. Russo believes that “his paintings still show his love of colors.”

Overall, Russo feels that Maya was, and still is, “a good artist open to trying new things. He had a good eye, and it’s really awesome to see someone like that come from HHS and succeed as he did.”