Graduate student finds life inspiration studying abroad

Becky Tener and Becky Tener

Graduate student Dan Chudzinski stood breathless as he gazed up at the ceiling of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. He’d been studying and creating art for years, but this was different – this time it changed his life.’ ‘ ‘What got me was one man did that and you can get up on a lot of the painting and see the brush strokes and the finger prints he left,’ he said. ‘I saw that and it literally knocked the wind out of me. I wasn’t ready for it.’ After Chudzinski returned from Italy, he reflected on what he was going to do with his life. He said he had just completed his undergraduate degree in history and art and was about to go to law school. ‘That kind of changed things, I decided at that moment not to do law school,’ he said. ‘I never looked back.’ Making the switch brought Chudzinski to the University where he was able to work on his art. This fall, he was offered an opportunity to use what he learned in Italy. ‘ ‘Something you learn from [artists like Michelangelo] is to be totally committed to your piece,’ he said. ‘Often the things that are the most worthwhile to commit to are the hardest.’ Shawn Morin, an art professor, asked him if he would be interested in making a piece to commit to – a bronze falcon landing on a branch. Morin said he got a call over the summer from Alumna Carlleen Scott, who had been looking for a statue of a falcon and thought an art student could create one. ‘She came to me this summer and there, of course, were no students around,’ he said. ‘So I said I would do it, but by the time I got around to starting, it was fall.’ So Morin asked Chudzinski. ‘I thought it would be a good experience for a student and [Dan] did an outstanding job, he really made a great piece,’ Morin said. Chudzinski called Scott, who now lives in California, and said she wanted the falcon for her husband for Christmas. Chudzinski sent her his sketches of his vision of the falcon. ‘She had been looking all over the country for a bronze falcon,’ he said. ‘So I kind of wanted to push it so it wasn’t just a falcon sitting on a branch.’ Chudzinski said Scott gave him the leeway he needed to be more creative. ‘My falcon is landing on one foot and it has its wings out, it ended up being a little bit harder than I actually thought,’ he said. Chudzinski began working on his falcon, but ran into some issues along the way. ‘I actually made four falcons that failed before [the final] one worked,’ he said. ‘[It] had a lot of problems.’ Because of all the set backs, Chudzinski finished the falcon a little late, but said Scott was understanding. They titled the piece ‘Safely Home.’ Chudzinski said Scott’s husband flies a lot for business and the name of the plane is the Falcon. ‘So when the plane lands she knows he’s ‘safely home,” he said. Chudzinski said the Scotts were happy with ‘Safely Home,’ but were unable to be reached at this time. ‘As far as clients go they were great because even when I had set backs, they were like we know we’re going to get something in the end,’ he said. ‘I was very grateful they let me experiment like they did.” Chudzinski said ‘Safely Home’ is just one of the pieces he’s made here at the University, but they all relate back to that day he ‘lost himself’ in the ceiling of the Sistine. ‘People are still moved by art ‘hellip; and I’m all about telling a story that people can be moved by,’ he said. ‘My life has changed for the better since then.’