Editor’s Note: This is the Teen of the Month article for July. Its publication was bumped up a few weeks to coincide with the high school graduation.
CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – “Daylin is a dedicated young artist who has strengths in multiple areas. He has a very strong observational eye and can draw beautifully. His color use is creative and mood evoking. Aside from these technical strengths, Daylin commits to making artwork with meaning,” said Julie Evans-Kaser of her student, John Jay High School senior Daylin Lichtman, painter and sculptor.
Born in New York City, Daylin moved to Lewisboro in elementary school. He attended Meadow Pond Elementary and John Jay Middle School. At John Jay Middle School, he made a strong connection with his art teacher, Spencer Eldridge. Later it would be his middle school art experience that would define his high school career and lead him to the JJHS art department.
During his four years in the art program at JJHS, he has been able to explore many mediums, including filmmaking and digital art. His journey in art at JJHS began his freshmen year when he took the two art classes that are available to first-year students: Studio Art and Digital Art and Design. In his sophomore year, he followed the traditional art track that includes Painting and Drawing I. It was taking these introductory classes, Daylin says, that showed him how “painting gives you a great background to branch off into other types of art.”
In his junior year, Daylin would move beyond paint and canvas and delve into the medium of ceramics. This year, for his senior internship, he chose screen printing. Daylin works with an independent artist in Soho who specializes in a printing discipline called cyanotypes, an antique photographic printing process that creates stunning cyan blue prints on fabrics and paper.
While at JJHS, Daylin has participated in all the school-sponsored art shows. He was also involved in the young artist program at the Katonah Museum of Art. When he isn’t presenting his work in art shows, he serves as a representative of the JJHS art program, meeting with incoming students and their parents, helping them select art classes.
A large part of Daylin’s work is based on his experience as a transgendered student. Currently, he is working on a transgender portrait project, a series of mostly digital works showing transgender men in different experiences. It would be this project that would inspire his senior year concertation, a series of 12 pieces, which was submitted to the college board to earn his AP (Advanced Placement) designation in art.
His connection between his art and transgender experience serves as a constant source of inspiration and purpose. “I think if I weren’t trans, I would definitely still be an artist. But by being trans, I have a lot to show that I can’t explain with words.” He credits the support of the art department for allowing him to grow as an artist and providing him with a great way to grow personally.
In addition to his art, Daylin has been very involved in the Sexuality And Gender Alliance (SAGA) at JJHS. He currently serves as the president of the group. For Daylin, SAGA has been a considerable part of his John Jay experience.
In the fall, Daylin will head to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. He will major in painting and minor in ceramics. He decided to go to MICA after attending a pre-college program there last summer. While at MICA, Daylin will pursue a five-year degree so that he can become a teacher. His inclination toward teaching stems from his experience with Eldridge. When Daylin was a student of Eldridge’s, he was inspired by how Eldridge fostered the sense that “not all students have the same strengths and that you don’t necessarily have to build the same strengths in every student for them to be successful.”
While at John Jay High School, Daylin had the opportunity to shadow Eldridge, who now teaches at Meadow Pond Elementary. While watching Eldridge at Meadow Pond, Daylin was struck by how he fosters an environment of creativity by giving his students the freedom to create and use genuine artists’ tools and materials to make the kids feel like real artists.
As Daylin leaves JJHS, he feels that he is ready to take what he has learned at John Jay about art and develop it further in college. He credits his superb experience with the art department and his teachers in preparing him to move on. While Daylin is ready for the next chapter in his life, he will miss the JJHS community of art students. He also hopes that his time at JJHS has made the community aware of the struggles that trans students go through and the importance of pronouns.
Daylin lives with his mother, Cheryl Chess, and three siblings, Ruby, Eliza and Phoebe, in South Salem. Chess has an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from Brown University.
Chess says Daylin “is an extraordinary person and an inspiring leader who serves as strong role model to his younger siblings.”
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