Riverhead School District

From computer class to the Parrish Art Museum

Josuel Jerez Puello never thought his work would hang in a museum when he enrolled in a computer graphics class at Riverhead High School last year.

Josuel, 18, said he wasn’t entirely sure what computer graphics was when he started the beginner-level class. Now, in his second year of the program, he has accomplished a huge feat: having one of his projects displayed at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill.

“It was nice, everybody seeing it,” the high school senior said, adding that his work was on exhibit for about a month.

“I’ve never had anything like that,” Josuel said. “This is my first time doing this kind of stuff and I seem to be pretty good at it. I really like it.”

His surrealist piece depicted the relationship between technology and the natural world. A large picture of the earth with rock formations at the bottom and a turtle climbing across the top fill the center of the page. Surrounding it are a tree, water, stars, computer code and a city skyline.

Josuel said he spent over an hour a day on the project for two weeks, often spending free periods at the computer perfecting his work.

“He’s good, he is determined,” said Caitlin Sheridan, Josuel’s teacher. “When he’s interested in something he figures out a way to do it. … He kind of just keeps pushing through until he figures it out, which is exactly what you want to see out of an art student. And he’s really creative.”

Josuel entered the competition at the suggestion of Ms. Sheridan, who submitted work by four students for this year’s Parrish Art Museum Student Exhibition. She said this is the 10th year she has submitted work by her students — and only the second time one of them has won. The three other pieces she submitted didn’t place.

“It was awesome because it’s a real art museum,” Ms. Sheridan said. “It’s pretty rewarding to see your student’s work hung and displayed in general, but to know that he was acknowledged for all his hard work with an award brings it home.”

It was rewarding for Josuel, too, who moved to Riverhead four years ago from the Dominican Republic with his parents and two younger sisters.

In addition to his schoolwork, Josuel works four days a week at a local restaurant to help provide for his family. He dedicates the beginning of his week to his studies, and the later part to his job.

Josuel was able to travel to Water Mill for the artist recognition day in February, which Ms. Sheridan attended as well. He was the only member of his family to see his work on display, he said, but noted that his parents were “so proud of him” for his accomplishments.

His little sister, however, wasn’t as excited.

“She was like, ‘You went to the museum for that? I don’t like it.’ ” Josuel said with a laugh.

Josuel plans to take his talents to Suffolk County Community College next year — making him the first person in his family to attend college. Although his major is undecided, he plans to continue taking graphic design classes.

“I can do things I didn’t even know I could do,” he said.

Top photo caption: Josuel Jerez Puello with hi surrealism piece that was displayed at Parrish Art Museum last month. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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