Sculpting narratives: A conversation with MFA alumnus and internationally recognized artist Winston Wingo

March 4, 2024

Winston Wingo's Portrait with metal sculptures in background

Winston Wingo, ’80, an alumnus of Clemson University’s MFA program, has created sculptures that span borders, resonating with audiences across the United States, Canada, France, and Italy with over 40 solo exhibitions and participation in over 200 group competitions and invitational exhibitions.

He traces the roots of his connection with art back to his childhood. 

“My interest and passion for art began as a small child,” Wingo reflected, acknowledging the formative impact of his elementary school years. “The support and encouragement from my teachers planted the seeds of creativity within me.”

However, it was during his junior high school days that Wingo’s fascination with sculpture took root and grew with the guidance of his mentor, Brooks Huggins. 

“Mr. Huggins introduced me to sculpture,” Wingo recalled with fondness. “His bronze sculptures, proudly displayed in our classroom, ignited a fire within me, a passion for sculpting that continues to burn brightly to this day.”

The decision to pursue his MFA at Clemson University was influenced by a pivotal encounter during his junior high years. 

“In 1970, I visited the School of Architecture at Clemson University to meet sculptor and art department chair John Acorn,” Wingo recounts. “His reputation preceded him, and I was captivated by his work showcased in various publications.” 

The vibrant artistic community at Clemson, coupled with the mentorship of John Acorn, solidified Wingo’s decision to embark on a journey of advanced graduate studies in studio fine arts.

Looking back on his accomplishments after graduation, Wingo’s artistic impact has reached across continents.

“Following my time at Clemson, I pursued postgraduate studies at Instituto Statute d’Arte, Italy,” Wingo said. “Subsequent travels and explorations led me to bronze foundries in Tuscany, Italy, where I honed my craft.” 

Winston Wingo's Sculpture in the Lee Gallery
MFA Alumnus Winston Wingo’s ’90 sculpture in the Lee Gallery until Mar. 8

Wingo’s commitment to fostering creativity as an artist and educator remains unwavering. 

“I’ve had the privilege of teaching art at undergraduate and graduate levels in South Carolina,” Wingo said. “My studio serves as a sanctuary for artistic exploration, where I continue to create and innovate.”

In his Spartanburg studio, Wingo delves into the complexities of contemporary African American social and cultural narratives. 

“My ongoing work reflects the intersections between science, technology, art, and humanity,” Wingo explains. “It’s a commentary on the dynamic forces shaping our world and a testament to the power of art to provoke thought and evoke emotion.”

Winston Wingo’s artistic path, from humble beginnings through Clemson’s MFA Program to international acclaim, continues to demonstrate how his artistry transcends boundaries.

Wingo’s sculpture work is part of the “As Good As Gold: 50 Years of the MFA at Clemson” Part III exhibition and can be viewed in the Lee Gallery until Mar. 8.

About the Clemson MFA Program 

Clemson University’s Master of Fine Arts program celebrates a half-century of art and learning with a three-part exhibition featuring a wide variety of art from its graduates and receptions featuring reflections from notable alumni and supporters of the MFA program. As part of this 50-year-long celebration, Clemson Visual Arts is featuring MFA Alumni this semester leading into the summer months. 

The MFA is considered the terminal degree in the visual arts. Clemson’s program offers studio concentrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, photography and sculpture. Interdisciplinary and collaborative projects are encouraged within the department. The program’s primary goal is to provide students with opportunities to develop a high degree of professional competence in their chosen area of concentration.