Cecelia Olszewski is a rising third-year majoring in Music Composition. She plans to travel to the Brandywine Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, as well as the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine, to create a series of musical studies inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s artistic process.

Tell me about your SURG topic.

Olszewski: I’m from Wallingford, Pennsylvania. A town that’s kind of close to Wallingford is a town called Chadds Ford, which is where this famous American painter named Andrew Wyeth lived. He was famously a regionalist painter, which means that he painted the two places where he spent his life. He spent his life in Chadds Ford and Maine. He would just create these really evocative farm life landscape portraits. They were kind of realist, but they had surrealist qualities. There’s an art museum in Chadds Ford that I visit a lot with my mom because her favorite painter is Andrew Wyeth. I was just really taken by the aesthetics and content of the work. They’re evocative of these really beautiful scenes. He did a lot of interviews and there were books written about him and specifically his artistic process. There’s a few elements of that artistic process that I was researching and looking into. Because I’m a composer, the idea was how can I represent these paintings musically? Not specifically the paintings themselves because there’s a lot of music that’s been written that is a representation of paintings. There’s not a lot of research done on the techniques for evoking art. So whether the musician has synesthesia, which means they can see the painting and then make music from it, which I don’t have, or they’re using other aspects of their technique, it’s not super well documented. There’s a gap in research, which is usually where a research project starts. The idea of the project is to reverse engineer that gap by looking through these archival materials detailing Andrew Wyeth’s process and then trying to replicate them musically. I’m going to travel to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford and then I’m also going to travel with my mom to Maine to go to this other museum that has Wyeth art. I want to replicate musically the idea of an [artistic] study by taking a microcosm of a larger work and focusing in on the details of that.

How does your mom play into this project?

Olszewski: We love to talk about Wyeth all the time. It’s a project I’m definitely dedicating to her in a way because she’s the best and she’s always been super supportive of me and my work. This is something that we share: this love of going to exhibits and checking out art together and talking about it. It’s a very personal connection in that way. It makes it more meaningful and I’m more committed to the project for sure.

Meet the other SURG Recipients!