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Personal statement Young artist collects signatures -- on her jeans

For teens, jeans are mandatory -- whether ripped and frayed, tight or droopy, neat and clean or down and dirty. They are fashion, sometimes. And anti-fashion on other days.

In the hands of Carolyn Perillo, they've become an artistic statement. And a way to collect autographs of some of her favorite band members.

Her oft-worn pair includes an artistic rendition of the logos of bands, copied from their Web sites or other material, as well as the signatures of musicians that she solicited after concerts.

Carolyn, who is 17 and a senior at North Tonawanda High School, plans to major in art in college, with a concentration in illustration, and is considering Alfred University, Cooper Union and Buffalo State College.

Her "jeans as art" project started out of boredom this summer.

"I was at a friend's house and they were playing basketball and I didn't want to play," said Carolyn. "I got kind of bored, so I just started drawing on my jeans. I just wanted to show them off." At first, she doodled, using Sharpie markers, but to make the designs more elaborate she added acrylic paint. Her favorite pair advertises bands that she's seen in concert, including "The Planet Smashers," "The Slackers," "The Toasters" and "Voodoo Glow Skulls."

Then she asked musicians to sign them.

"They are usually surprised to see them and ask how I did it," said Carolyn.

Although her brother's friend has asked if she could paint jeans for him, Carolyn isn't sure she wants to create designs on a commission basis. "I'm not so sure I'd get things done to meet the expectations of other people," she said. "I'm not so ready for that yet."

Still, she designed a logo for a warm-up jacket used by the Lady Jacks, the school soccer team she plays on; as well as a sweatshirt for the Hot Dog committee, which sells refreshments to raise funds at football games. That design shows a hot dog cooking hot dogs on a grill.

"As far back as I can remember, I've been drawing," said Perillo, whose mother takes art classes at Partners in Art in North Tonawanda.

Last summer Carolyn spent a month at Brockport State College with students from around the state for the New York State Summer School of the Arts' art immersion program. She was recommended for the program by her art tacher, Cindy O'Mara, who also encouraged her to assemble artwork for National Portfolio Day, a time when students' art work is readied for college admission.

At Brockport, she was taught by college professors and is pleased that her portfolio has grown with additional self-portraits, ink drawings and sketches of models.

"You do art all the time, so you improve so much," said Carolyn, who took classes in figure studies and sculpture and visited galleries that included the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery as part of the program.

Besides the instruction in art, Carolyn said the experience broadened her perspective. "I learned how to live at college," she said, "with dorms and shared bathrooms."

Though Carolyn is years away from it, she thinks her dream job would be as an illustrator. At one time, she thought about medical illustration. "But that's too much science for me," she said.

"I like to write once in a while, but I don't like making anything public," she said, adding that she could imagine illustrating a book of her own poetry some day.

When she packs for college, the jeans -- a mainstay in her wardrobe -- will definitely go along.

"I wear them a lot," she said. "They're really comfortable. I'll definitely keep these a while. As long as I can fit into them."


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