BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater resident Ashley Jiao was one of the winning finalists of the #Your2020Portrait contest, through Instagram and the Brooklyn Museum.

She was among five high school and college student artists honored throughout the country for their portraits, and they were featured on Instagram’s @design, @creators and @brooklynmuseum. They also received a $5,000 award.

“I heard about the competition through a college friend, who sent me an Instagram post,” she said. “I didn’t expect anything to come from it, but when I received an email telling me I was one of the winners, I was incredibly excited and grateful.”

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Submissions were judged by a panel of artists, and the five winners, including Jiao, were chosen from more than 300 submissions. Art pieces had to be original portraits in any medium.

Jiao, 18, is a student at Columbia University.

Jiao said she created the drawing in April, during quarantine. She said it was originally her final project for her drawing class, for which her professor had assigned the prompt of “quarantine/isolation.”

“There were a lot of different ways I could approach this prompt, as a lot was happening in the world, but I decided to focus on my personal experiences that I hoped would be relatable,” she said. “It was an anxious time full of uncertainty, but I also found a peculiar appreciation and freedom in being alone with myself.”

Jiao said the composition of the drawing recreated the sense of anxiety and solace navigating the sudden change of being in quarantine.

“I felt guilty about trying to take care of myself when so much was happening in the world, but the title “Self-Indulgent” shamelessly confronts this sentiment,” she said.

Jiao said she will be a sophomore at Columbia next year, and she plans to concentrate in visual art as one of her majors.

“My love for art is a lifelong passion that has taught me a lot about myself,” she said.

Jiao said she has gravitated toward art since she was younger, and she started taking classes in middle school, then continued at Bridgewater-Raritan High School. She said she is inspired by her artist friends, as well as creatives Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Saville, Patty Chang and Arielle Bobb-Willis.

“What I enjoy about art is that while collaboration is important, it’s ultimately a very personal process,” she said. “It teaches you to build faith in yourself and see mistakes as learning experiences.”

“I also appreciate how relatively accessible it is,” she added, “and that everyone can derive their own meaning from a work of art.”