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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for “investigative artist” Pamela Bannos images might also be measured in archaeological terms — shovelfuls, perhaps. The Northwestern associate professor of instruction in Art, Theory, and Practice has a passion for excavating well below the surface to reveal connections between past and present, the overt and hidden, and the intended and (re)imagined.

“Detective and forensic-type work is fascinating to me,” says Bannos, a Chicago native who came into the arts “via a side...