The 2021-22 edition of the Dyson Year in Review included three pieces of student art: Find Your Wings  by Destini Smith ’22, Art, Glowing by Caroline Schneider ’22, Art, and Grand Finale by John Towers ’22, Art.  We sat down with them to learn more about their process and journey at Pace.

Destini Smith ’22

young woman smiling in front of city buildings

What was your inspiration for Find Your Wings? 

Funny enough, this piece was a very random idea that I drew in my sketchbook and after sketching it, all I knew is that I wanted to paint it immediately. Monarch butterflies are extremely important to me and I’m very connected to them, so I wanted to create this ethereal being that is a butterfly goddess surrounded by gorgeous butterflies. I love creating fantastical and otherworldly creatures, so this was just one of those sketches, but after getting all the details down on paper, I felt this like this was more than that.   

What does Find Your Wings mean to you? 

The title of this piece is from the title of a Tyler, the Creator song about finding your wings so you can go fly and be free, and that’s exactly what this painting is about. The painting itself is a reminder to free yourself. Butterflies are beautiful, diverse creatures that are free to fly wherever they want, and that type of freedom is what I feel when I look at the painting. The direct eye contact between this otherworldly entity and the viewer is one where the entity is telling you to be like these beautiful creatures around them and find your wings. Your wings will take you where you want to go and hopefully, you’ll get to experience life to the fullest.  

painting of woman in green dress with monarch butterfly wingsDid you always want to be an artist? 

I didn’t start off wanting to be an artist. As I child, I had thought a lot about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started off wanting to be an astronaut and that quickly changed into just wanting to be a scientist. When I got to middle school, I wanted to be a dancer and by high school I wanted to be an artist. Around that time, I had grown into my own art style and was working on a lot of paintings and drawings. I was a lot more focused on my craft, and creating all these pieces was fulfilling. I really wanted to do something that made me happy, and art was and still is that something.  

What other works are you proud of? 

I have quite a lot of works that I’m proud of; just about any piece of art I’ve created in the past two years has made me incredibly proud. Once we were able to come to campus after we were sent home at the start of the pandemic, I wanted to make art that spoke to who I am as a person, and I think that’s when I started making my best work in all the mediums I work in. My most recent painting titled “Give Us Grace” is probably the one I’m proudest of lately because as much as I despised working on her, she’s absolutely stunning and has a very heavy meaning behind her that I know needs to be spoken about.  

Why did you choose to study art? 

 In high school, I decided that I wanted to be an artist officially, and studying art just seemed like the way to do that. Studying art in New York, especially, allowed for me to meet some incredible artists, explore and fall in love with different mediums, and become an artist that my younger self would admire greatly. Studying art really forced to learn more about not only art, but also about myself and who I want to be as an artist. With every piece I make, the question behind it is “How does this tie into who I am and who I want to be?” 

What are you currently working on? 

Currently I am working on a new painting featuring Black fairies in nature that may or may not turn into a full-blown series centering Black fairies; I’m not quite sure where I’m heading with this piece just yet. I am also continuing to work on a graphic novel that I created in my last semester of my senior year that I will hopefully publish by the end of this year if all goes well. If you want to see progress of either project you can check it out on my Instagram @dstn.smth.  

Caroline Schneider ’22

young woman smiling in front of tree

What was your inspiration for Glowing? 

The piece originated as an assignment given in a painting class at Pace studying a variation of colored lights and their interaction with the still life that my professor, Liz Atzberger, set up. I gravitated immediately towards the areas of the still life with the most reflection as I believe it adds an element of playfulness to an image with static objects. Working with the reflective surfaces allowed the colored lights to be visualized in all of their glory.  

What does Glowing mean to you? 

This piece means quite a bit to me. It is the last piece I painted in acrylic before my professor graciously gifted me her old oils, which have changed the painting game for me. This piece represents the point in my artistic career where I broke down the walls of what I am comfortable with and became ambitious. I had never painted anything like this, and we only had a week to complete it. With five other classes to tend to, this was a big project to take on for me. Luckily, pushing though resulted in the opening of a whole new realm of opportunities for my work. It is also the first piece I have ever entered into a show. 

Did you always want to be an artist? 

For as long as I can remember, I have been creating art. I had a YouTube channel when I was 11 years old, sharing videos of my drawings, which didn’t gain much traction but still serve as precious yet cringey documentation of my growth. When I visualized my adult life as a child and teenager, I couldn’t fathom living a content life if my concentration wasn’t directly involving the arts. So yes, I have always wanted to be an artist. 

What other works are you proud of? 

I am quite proud of many of my pieces from Liz Atzberger’s painting class. She provided us with interesting prompts and wonderful feedback that really pushed my work forward. We completed a self-portrait along with an alter ego painting, which were accompanied by many hours of self-reflection to properly complete. I am particularly proud of these works due to my application of technical components. However, any work of mine where I’ve had to dive inward to finalize are the works I’m most proud of. To me, art is an expression of our individual human experience and any work that I can communicate that through is one I am proud of. 

Why did you choose to study art? 

Everything is art to me, so studying it is the only thing that made sense. I have been drawn to creating my whole life and it is a path in which I can visualize myself leaving a positive and tangible impact on the world. Luckily, I have incredibly supportive parents who have given me every opportunity to succeed in what I do, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that support.  

What are you currently working on? 

I am currently working on a wedding triptych for my best friend who is getting married, along with a personal oil painting concerning the fleeting nature of relationships in New York City and the emotional and physical consequences that accompany them. I have switched exclusively to painting in oil paints and am looking forward to seeing what this new medium holds for me. 

John Towers ’22

young man standing in front of white wall

What was your inspiration for Grand Finale? 

The inspiration for Grand Finale comes from being in New York during the COVID-19 lockdown and trying to recreate specific moments that influenced my life. This piece is inspired by a day I had with my girlfriend and a song that I couldn’t get out of my head while working on this piece. 



abstract paintingWhat does Grand Finale mean to you? 

Grand Finale not only represents the end of a long journey to graduate from college, but most importantly, expressing how I feel without having to write it down. Grand Finale is a celebration of a moment I’ll never forget at the beginning of my artistic career.  

Did you always want to be an artist? 

I never considered being an artist until my girlfriend started water coloring in front of me and I loved it. Then I wanted to create what I was seeing, and it eventually led to an obsession with creating new pieces, exploring different mediums, and branching off to into trying to create a style that could be unique to me. 

What other works are you proud of? 

When looking at my body of work, a few pieces stand out as works that I am proud of, and they are all in a similar style to Grand Finale. Focusing on the use of color, and the process of creating a piece is what matters the most to me. 

Why did you choose to study art? 

I chose to study art because I like the representational aspect of art and how you can be looking at something and have no idea what you’re looking at, but the piece is still able to affect you in some way. It is also easier for me to get my ideas down visually than with words, so being a painter seemed to be a natural choice once it was shown to me. 

What are you currently working on? 

Currently I have been trying to create as many paintings as possible to put in my portfolio. I have been mainly focusing on paintings like Grand Finale as this style seems to be the one that has stuck with me throughout the years.