Summer Break Offers Professors Time for Research, Including Art

Associate professor of visual and performing arts Nancy Wynn went on the 20th annual Pellegrinaggio pilgrimage to Italy last spring and is using the experience as inspiration for her latest artwork series.

“It’s a mixed-medium collage, which is really the best way to tell the story,” Wynn said.

The summer and winter breaks are the best times for professors to do their research and in Wynn’s case that’s her artwork, she said.

“To do this kind of body of artistic work you really need big blocks of time to settle into your studio and get into a rhythm,” Wynn said.

Wynn is a conceptual artist. She starts with an idea for the story she wants to tell. Then she chooses the best medium with which to convey the concept of the story.

She draws her inspiration from myriad sources. There are moments when nature inspires her, or a good lecture, an exhibition or discussion; other times it’s artistic performances, including music, theater, dance and poetry. Seeing acts of injustice can inspire works on social justice concepts.

Her art is important to her because it gives her the freedom to tell stories through her works and then put them out into the world for others to see, Wynn said.

She has been consistently exhibiting her artwork since the early 1990s.

“I believe it is important to show one’s work,” Wynn said. “The work is the catalyst for the dialogue, or story, I like to tell with my work.”

She loves teaching and especially the engagement with students.

“I feel it is important to teach my students the concepts of art and design,” Wynn said. “But it is more iimportant for me to see what they do with the knowledge and skill. How they interpret themselves, their own creativity, and figure out what stories they want to tell.”

Her art about last spring’s Pellegrinaggio tells a story of the gifts given during the pilgrimage. Pilgrims were asked to think about their intentions, be open, and engage with unique experiences.

“The pilgrimage can provide transformative experiences if you allow yourself to be transformed,” Wynn said.

Following a carefully crafted itinerary while traveling on Pellegrinaggio required Wynn to be nimble and flexible with the equipment and media for her art. She took only a sketchbook, pencils and watercolor pencils that fit into a Ziplock bag, as well as a cell phone with its camera for pictures, but was able to remain creative using those finite tools. Now, back in her studio, she’s working with collage, drawing, watercolors, photographs, and sewing to develop the artwork further.

The pilgrimage is part of the spring semester course Pellegrinaggio in Italia: In Search of Augustinian Community. It explores the life of St. Augustine, particularly the five years he spent in Italy, and the origins of the Augustinian order.

“We visit places that are significant to St. Augustine and to allow the trip to open us to our spirituality and allows us to experience real community as we travel together,” said the Rev. Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A., vice president of mission and ministry.

The Rev. Jim Wenzel, O.S.A., started the Pellegrinaggio, which is Italian for “pilgrimage,” for faculty and staff. After several years, the pilgrimage was opened to students, alumni and school benefactors.


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