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Illustrator Andrea Wisnewski’s talk Feb. 4 opens series featuring five artists through April: WCSU to present spring semester M.F.A. artist lecture program

DANBURY, CONN. — Five artists whose critically acclaimed works span a wide spectrum from illustration, on-site painting and portraiture to concert art, sculpture and mixed-media installation will discuss their artistic philosophies and creative process during the Western Connecticut State University spring semester Master of Fine Arts lecture series continuing from Feb. 4 through April 20, 2020.

All lectures, sponsored by the WCSU Department of Art M.F.A. in Visual Arts program, will be in Room 144 of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the WCSU Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. Admission will be free and the public is invited; advance registration is requested at

The series will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, with a lecture by Connecticut artist Andrea Wisnewski, whose works in illustration, paper cutting, printmaking and design have gained popularity with publishers and clients nationwide and abroad. Recipient of a B.F.A. from the University of Connecticut, Wisnewski began her career as a staff illustrator for the Hartford Courant before embarking more than three decades ago on her own illustration business as founder and owner of Running Rabbit Press in Storrs. Her clients have included the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Paris Match, Simon and Schuster, Macy’s, Clarkson Potter, Cricket and Babybug. She has authored and illustrated children’s books for David R. Godine Publisher including “Trio: The Tale of a Three-Legged Cat” and “Little Old Farm Folk.”

Wisniewski’s illustrations draw inspiration from the natural world in whimsical portrayals of animals, birds, flowers and other subjects. She attributed the origins of her interest in papercuts to a lifelong “love affair with paper, so much so that as a first grader, I was reprimanded for hoarding a desk full of lined penmanship paper.” From sketches transferred in reverse to the back of clay-coated paper, her signature papercuts have taken form through her skillful use of an X-Acto blade and subsequent hand-painting with watercolor to finish the work. Her recent works have featured designs carved in linoleum to make plates for printing on a hand-built press, creating prints sold at art shows around New England and on her website.

Other artists featured in the M.F.A. spring semester lecture series include:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 11:30 a.m.: Ying Li, a native of Beijing, studied and taught landscape painting at Anhui Teachers University in China before immigrating in 1983 to the United States, where she earned an M.F.A. at the Parsons School of Design. She joined the Haverford College art faculty in 1997 and currently serves there as Phlyssa Koshland Professor in Fine Arts. Li’s wide-ranging travels have inspired a formidable body of work that has been shown in 45 solo and more than 80 group exhibitions over three decades across the United States and in Italy, Switzerland, France and Ireland. The Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia featured Li’s solo exhibition, “Ying Li: Peregrinations,” in fall 2019. Her recognitions have included the Henry Ward Ranger Fund Purchase Award and the Edwin Palmer Memorial Prize for Painting from the National Academy Museum and the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation Award, as well as numerous residencies, fellowships and grants from art and cultural institutions in the United States, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, France and Canada. Li has taught widely at art schools and workshops across the country over the past 25 years. In an artist lecture opening a 2018 show at the Alexandre Hogue Gallery at the University of Tulsa, she observed that her landscape works retain connection with the traditional Chinese artistic vision of the individual as “part of an enormous energy and space” while also embracing Western expressionism and abstraction to “paint something unpaintable — the atmosphere, the temperature, a breeze.” She remarked that a driving motivation behind her artistic work is to find new ways to paint what she sees and feels, embracing the “challenge to paint things differently than anyone else has done it.”
  • Monday, March 2, at 11 a.m.: Connecticut artist AJ Masthay, recipient of a B.F.A. in Printmaking from the Hartford Art School, has gained renown through his prolific work over the past two decades at his letterpress studio in Hartford as one of the leading figures in contemporary concert art. Working from original charcoal and pastel drawings to create hand-carved linoleum blocks, Masthay prints separate colors of the final prints in succession using a reduction technique that requires destruction of each layer of the block to create the next color printing matrix, achieving “a visual quality which sets my work apart,” he said. “What many would consider as posters, I’ve always treated as fine art, bringing materials and techniques traditionally reserved for a gallery setting into the concert arena.” His extensive client list includes the Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath, Dead and Company, Foo Fighters, Widespread Panic, Umphrey’s McGee and other bands as well as the “South Park” TV show. Inspired by his passion for music and interest in sign painting graphic techniques from the early 1900s through the 1960s, he said his work is “influenced by nature, developed through a deep love of life drawing and the figure. My intention is to engage the viewer by creating a narrative in the subject matter and through the use of dynamic compositions.”
  • Wednesday, April 1, at 11 a.m.: Jenny Lynn McNutt, an M.F.A. graduate of the Yale School of Art, has established an international reputation since the 1990s as a multi-faceted artist who brings together a diversity of skills in the creation of her painting, sculpture and performance works. Residing in Brooklyn, she has shown her works in 20 solo and more than 50 group exhibitions across the United States and Europe as well as in Tunisia, the Ivory Coast and China. In her artist statement, McNutt explained that her paintings and sculptures reflect her dual role as “both animal and symbol maker,” representing “both a reckoning with my own body and the urge toward language ever in flux.” Her richly varied experiences ranging from close contact with nature and storytelling tradition during her youth in the American South to extensive observation of the indigenous dance, song and spirituality of West African communal life have informed and energized her work. In multimedia performances such as “Group Cuerpo” in Tunisia and New Mexico and “Sewing Songs” in Rome and New York, “music, dance, video projection and lyrics have enabled me to bring my paintings to ‘life,’” she said. Her recognitions include a Fulbright Fellowship, a Mercedes Matter/Ambassador Middendorf Award from the New York Studio School, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Prize for Sculpture, and numerous grants including William Hillman Foundation for the Arts and New York Foundation for the Arts sponsorships for her multimedia show “Precise Breathing.” She is a faculty member at the New York Studio School and the Pratt Institute; her many residencies include Toaxichuan International Arts Studio in China in 2018-19.
  • Monday, April 20, at 11 a.m.: Massachusetts artist Josephine Halvorson, recipient of an M.F.A. from the Columbia University School of the Arts, has earned acclaim for her “plein air” works created on site through direct and continuous observation of her subject in its environment. “Transcribing her perceptions in real time, Halvorson connects with the world around her through the medium of paint,” her biographical notes observed. “Her work describes the appearance of a subject at hand, while also expressing that which is invisible yet nonetheless felt.” Her paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings have been featured at 15 solo and more than 60 group exhibitions in the United States as well as in France, Italy, South Korea and Mexico. During 2019, her “Intermittent Rivers” works created in Matanzas, Cuba, were shown at the Havana Biennial, and she participated in the Foster Prize exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Solo exhibitions this year will be shown at the Sikkema Jenkins and Co. gallery in New York from Jan. 23 through Feb. 29, and at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has been the subject of Art21 “New York Close Up” features about emerging artists on PBS. Her numerous honors include the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and the New York Foundation for the Arts Award in Painting, as well as Fulbright and Rome Prize fellowships for European study. She has taught at Yale and Princeton universities and is a professor and chair of graduate studies in painting at Boston University.

For more information, contact the WCSU Department of Art at (203) 837-8403.



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