Enamored with art since her childhood, 2013 Saint Vincent College graduate Stacey Pydynkowski now has a new home in which to work on her craft.
Pydynkowski was recently named artist-in-residence at the Jeannette gallery You Are Here. In this role, she will be given her own workspace in the studio and her work will regularly be displayed on the You Are Here website.
A full-time artist, Pydynkowski is a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists, the Latrobe Art Center and Greensburg Art Center, while her work is represented by Firebox Studios in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. She has created a number of commissioned paintings and created murals for Johnstown’s Riverwall Project and Westmoreland Cultural Trust’s Art in the Alley, while she also regularly gives art lessons and has shared studio space with close friend and classmate Sarah Hunter, C’12.
Pydynkowski learned of the artist-in-residency opportunity at You Are Here after taking part in its MAD Lab project during the fall.
“You Are Here transformed its space into a maker’s lab,” she explained, “and artists collaborated to create canvas murals and upcycled benches to distribute to Jeannette and surrounding communities. Artists took turns painting in shifts, each building off of what the previous artist started, until completion. We not only created art, but we created a sense of community and collaboration during a time of distance and isolation. You Are Here’s community-oriented mission and focus on public art strongly resonated with me and led me to apply for this residency.”
Pydynkowski has been an avid creator since her youth and has extensive experience working in various mediums, including fiber arts, clay sculpture and drawing. She gravitated toward painting during her time at Saint Vincent, and it has been her concentration ever since.
“My studio art professors at Saint Vincent not only provided valuable instruction and resources, but they granted me permission to explore and discover,” she recalled. “I began college with very little technical experience, but a very strong desire to create and learn, and my professors helped me to harness that.”
Pydynkowski has been enchanted by nature – specifically flowers – for as long as she can remember, and this influence became even more significant during her battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2018.
“I’ve collected flower petals since I was young, stowing away my favorites in shoeboxes,” she said. “Flowers have always been so profoundly beautiful to me. I think it’s the notion that something so ordinary can possess its own language and serve as a symbol of resilience, hope and health.
“I began to use flowers extensively in my work after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the spring of 2018,” she continued. “Flower bouquets would show up at my doorstep from coworkers, family and friends. I was so touched by the gesture and determined to find a way to preserve the love and kindness of each petal before they wilted. I became obsessed with preservation techniques and began adhering the petals to my canvases. Every petal has a story and I like to think that the love behind each petal transfers to the viewer.”
Pydynkowski’s battle with cancer influenced her art career beyond the newfound emphasis of flowers in her work.
“I used my paintbrush as a tool to make sense of the journey,” she said, “documenting the experience in all of its turbulence, uncertainty, joy and everything in between. Having the art community to lean on in that time meant everything to me and I was grateful to have a means of expression to make sense of the emotions and feelings that words can’t always touch.
“My relationship with art during this time contributed to my passion for public art,” she continued. “I want others to have the opportunity to find comfort and strength in visual imagery, just like I did. Art is powerful – an unexpected, bright swoosh of paint against a gray sky has been enough to turn around my day, at least for a moment. And, in making marks, I aim to create this experience for the viewer.”
While her studio art major at Saint Vincent College has certainly paid off, Pydnkowski emphasized that her second major, psychology, has been equally impactful, and she shares the same amount of fasciation in both.
“I entered SVC with a passion for both subjects,” she said, “and was able to feed both interests. Professors were supportive and I loved being able to make connections between what I learned in the two disciplines. In my psychology internship, I was able to blend the two, bringing art to a retirement community setting. My senior exhibition consisted of paintings focused heavily on human emotion and my psychology capstone research review explored aesthetics in relation to psychology.
She remains grateful for the support of both the psychology and studio art faculty in helping her manage the rigors that come with being a double major.
“I appreciate each professor’s insight, perspective and expertise in both departments. There are too many to list, but among them in studio art are Br. Mark Floreannini, O.S.B., Mr. Ben Schachter, Mr. Joseph Materkowski, Mr. Duncan MacDiarmid and the late Mr. (David) Ludwig and Br. Nathan Cochran, O.S.B., and in psychology, Dr. Chris Oldenburg and Dr. Kristine Slank.”
Throughout her four-month appointment at You Are Here, Pydynkowski will be producing a new body of work from her studio space online, posting weekly blog updates on the You Are Here website and working with the studio on a variety of community projects and initiatives.
“I am excited to enter this new chapter and create from my space at You Are Here,” she said, “while working closely with the gallery on projects that support the arts in Jeannette and surrounding communities. I have learned so much from each space I have worked in and I’m excited to get started at You Are Here.”
PHOTO: Stacey Pydynkowski