Luisa Adelfio ’86, 2021-2022 Mary Elvira Stevens Fellowship recipient

Luisa Adelfio ’86

Tell us a little more about the MES Fellowship and where it will be taking you.
The Mary Elvira Stevens Traveling Fellowship truly embodies Wellesley’s spirit of life-long education for women in its unique requirement that it should fund independent travel to unfamiliar territory for up to one full year. This stipulation inspires courage, imagination, tolerance, and curiosity from the nascent idea of the proposal throughout the process and during the grant year.

I am a practicing artist based in Norfolk, Virginia and Palermo, Italy. The MES will enable me to develop my practice through a six-month period in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I will explore lithography and other printmaking techniques as part of a community of dedicated artists. Trained in sculpture and drawing at Wellesley and at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Italy, I currently have limited experience as a printmaker. The expansion of my repertoire to include printmaking is the next logical direction of my post-pandemic art. My most recent body of work in newsprint, oil pastel, and graphite, combines word, image, and symbols. A similar appreciation for the complexity of graphic arts occurs in the rich artistic history of Mexico. Oaxaca is particularly well-known for its material culture (textiles, ceramics, architecture), and is home to a vibrant community of artists. It is a mecca for print studios.

What are the major influences in your life that have inspired you to pursue this path?
The daughter of an Italian father and an American mother, I have always been culturally fluid. My own bicultural home was filled with art, music, travel, romance languages, and literature. When I immersed myself in Art History and Studio Art while at Wellesley, I received unreserved support from my parents, my professors, and fellow Wellesley students. Since graduating 35 years ago, I have continually maintained my dedication to art and a commitment to its practice, including national and international public commissions and exhibitions.

As I prepare to depart for Oaxaca, I am grateful for this opportunity to deepen my knowledge of a new technique in a new country. There is a level of discomfort associated with leaving the routines of one’s existence. Simultaneously, it is the perfectly natural next step in the trajectory of my adult life. The fibers of my childhood values are all weaving together to form the fabric of this moment.

How did your time at Wellesley shape your interests, or encourage you along this path? Your professors? Career education?
I still remember that moment as an undergraduate when I realized that everything I was studying related to everything else. Every subject, from Calculus to Art History, from Geology to History, from Literature to Economics, suddenly became interconnected and formed the lens through which I see the world. The Wellesley professors were all there for the education of women. Building on the foundational ethos of my family, who recognized that becoming an artist was the only spiritually responsible path for my life, Wellesley professors encouraged my interests and ambitions.

What did you learn or gain from going through the application process?
During the process in February 2021, I felt a sense of gratitude for the Covid-19 quarantine, which inspired the body of work with which I applied to the MES. The application process helped me to refine and flesh out ideas about where to take my work. I knew I needed time and a place to develop a new body of work and investigate some developing themes in my art, and in writing about this, I gained clarity and insight about what that direction will be. I am confident that aspects of my MES/Oaxaca experience will mirror the proposal itself, as both require a mental visualization (and in my case, artistic), before execution of the final work. Of course, my time in Oaxaca and the resulting work cannot be exactly as Imagined, but the seeds of the experience are there, written between the lines of my proposal.

What inspired you to take the leap and apply?
The MES had been on my radar since I was an undergraduate, but it is just “never a good time” to interrupt one’s life, one’s career, one’s family, one’s comfort, and one’s daily routine. And yet: there is no time like the present to take a leap into the unknown in order to develop professionally and personally. The introspection allowed by the solitude and artistic productivity of quarantine made me realize that a window to pursue this long-held aspiration had finally opened.

What most excites you about this opportunity?
The MES fellowship will allow me to focus solely on the creation of art for many months in a community of dedicated artists: that is exciting. @luisaadelfio