Interview with Angela Mia Delavega
Angela Mia Delavega (born 1986)
Exalted the human spirit through expressive face and natural body movements has become the recognized hallmark of Angela Mia De la Vega’s figurative bronze sculpture. The greatest inspiration for her work is the ever-changing individuality of her children.
Angela De la Vega graduated Summa Cum Laude from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and completed post-graduate studies at the University of Madrid, Spain. She is an elected member of National Sculpture Society, a Master Signature member of American Women Artists and has been named a Living Master by the internationally respected ARC (Art Renewal Center). Major awards include “Best in Show” and “Best 3D Work” from AWA and “The Purchase Award” from ARC Museum. Her sculptures are installed in numerous universities, hospitals, public parks, and civic spaces throughout the United States, and are collected by individuals worldwide.
Angela is co-founder and president of FLITE to Freedom (Friends Lifting Individuals To Empowerment), a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and channeling the hopes and dreams of others by harnessing the power of artistic expression. FLITE members and supporters believe that creative activity empowers enslaved, burdened and marginalized people: www.flitetofreedom.com.
Freedom of spirit is the goal of my work: to uplift and inspire feelings of pure love and joy. My fulfillment as an artist is complete when I feel that my sculpture touches or awakens personal emotions in the hearts of its viewers. As I sculpt, I listen for a lasting memory of my own experiences. Each sculpture begins as dramatic light and shadow over form. Unique details then create a responsive body that listens as a living face does. When I sign my work in clay, it is difficult to resist the thrill of creation… I have a strong sense that nothing is finished; it continues to evolve and grow, as do our children. I feel that the spirit of life itself emanates from the sculpture. Because of the passion that inspires my sculpture, I hope to convey a complexity of emotions to those who view my work.
Dear Angela, tell us a little bit about your career. When did you first encounter art?
My artistic endeavors began under the wing of my mother, Kathleen J. Smith, the greatest nurturer of my creative expression. She was a devoted educator and passionate supporter of other people’s gifts and talents, helping everyone find their inner star. She often enjoyed telling one of her favorite anecdotes: that I began my career by modeling mashed potatoes in my high chair tray.
I grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania. There was an exceptionally large pine tree in front of our house. My mother, always looking for ways to encourage creativity, denuded the lower part of the tree trunk by removing the branches.
This allowed the branches that were just above her head and beyond to cascade to the ground. By parting the branches, I could walk inside; the branches closed behind me, creating an evergreen curtain and a small secret room inside the fir tree.
My mother placed a small table and chair inside, and with a shovel I dug up the wonderful Pennsylvania clay soil to form little monsters and creatures that I placed in this magical studio under the pine tree.
Do you think all good art should invite us to view the world differently?
I think all art should invite us to look at the world differently. For this reason, I love working with students and encouraging them, just as my mother encouraged me. For example, when I mentor interns, I advise them not to sacrifice their sincerity, but to encourage their artistic development without the idea that they have to edit their work to fit someone else’s point of view. This also gives me the wonderful opportunity to absorb as much from my students as they do from me; they give me a glimpse into their innate view of the world.
Ms. Delavega, what does freedom mean when it comes to art?
Definitely, love and freedom of spirit are the central themes in all my work. This is my message as an artist. For this reason, it is important that I have the opportunity to fall in love with each of my subjects. I need to really get to know and appreciate them so that I can understand their unique inner beauty and then portray them through their outer beauty.
I feel a strong sense of responsibility to provide comfort with my work.
I believe that even if something is developed from a place of pain, it can still heal. Humanity offers us the opportunity for empathy, a gift that allows us to feel the heaviness of the world in our own pain. We can be a sounding board for others, bringing their emotions to a wider and broader understanding. Conversely, our emotions, when vulnerably revealed and uniquely expressed, form a bridge between our hearts and those of others.
How would you describe your own style? How do you work artistically?
My work belongs to the genre of realism, more specifically figurative realism. When I imagine a sculpture, I have a mental image of the sculpture in bronze, as this is the final medium for my work. Early in my career, I was dissatisfied with the final bronzes of my work because I felt that a metallic surface did not properly portray the warmth, softness and tenderness of children. For several years, I worked closely with my dear friend, a master patinator, to develop a patina formula that would adequately render the supple skin of youth. Our experiments and efforts resulted in my signature patina, which is an essential part of the representativeness of my sculptures.
I always work with a live model for my sculptures. Some of my models are predetermined, as they are the subject of specific commissions. Others are models I choose because I feel they embody a message I hope to convey and can form the basis of a meaningful dialog. I have found that when I model a story – a personal story – it becomes another person’s story, over and over again. That my heart’s expression is adopted by someone and made his or her own gives me a tremendous sense of self-worth.
Tell us about the development of your sculptures over the last few years.
Some of my sculptures are complex in their design, as well as in their history: I went through a very difficult time in my personal life about seven years ago and was flooded with self-doubt. During this challenging time, I was overcome with a mental image of a little girl being lifted up by a kaleidoscope of butterflies.
Although I was already in the middle of a commission, I was so compelled to model this inspired vision that I began working immediately. I modeled the girl life-size, and since she was at the top of the butterfly vortex in flight, I sculpted while standing on a tall ladder. Over the course of several months, I modeled several hundred butterflies that were in the breeze below her. I like to think of the butterflies as my support system that carried me through such a difficult time. The sculpture titled “Lift Her with Butterflies” represents all of us who have gone through difficult times in life being held up by a wonderful support team.
Simpler in form than “Lift Her with Butterflies.,” but not without an origin of complex emotion, is “Swaddled Star.”
It grew out of a deeply moving story that is a simple but compelling sculptural composition: A neurosurgeon in Southern California contacted me about his little patient, a six-month-old baby who had a brain tumor. The doctor had grown very fond of the baby and his family during the months he treated him and wanted to give the family a gift; one that would honor the sweet little boy’s perseverance and tender surrender at the end of his many treatments and surgeries.
Unbeknownst to the family, the doctor sent me photos and videos of the baby and his family. As I sat there with the photos and took them all in and watched the videos many times, I got to know the family; their love for each other was so evident, as was their adoration and devotion for this precious baby. It was a deeply moving experience for me to get a glimpse into the journey of this family who has experienced so much hope and so much pain. I was overwhelmed with an understanding of their love, a flood of appreciation and empathy. Hoping to create a sculpture that could be a worthy tribute to their love story, I decided to sculpt their baby wrapped in a protective blanket and covered
in bright stars. There is an energy at the base of the sculpture that makes the baby appear to float in his blanket, moving upward in an ethereal ascent.
Is that why your work represents the real world around you rather than something more abstract or fantastical?
I feel that every semblance of life is unique. Enchanting nuances of character (or spirit) reveal themselves in the smallest details. Therefore, I enjoy creating sculptures that are recognizably and realistically human. Grandparents see their grandchildren and adults see their inner child in my work; not necessarily because of the facial features, but because of the personality the features speak of.
Recently, however, I took on a challenge that I believe my artistry has grown on: the founder and CEO of the Women That Soar TM Awardshow, an awards program that honors exceptional and exemplary women, commissioned me to design the trophy that would be awarded to the Women That Soar TM award winners. Since I am a representational, figurative artist, this would prove to be a significant departure from my style, training and experience. The sculpture model for the trophy had to be all-encompassing and universal, and therefore could not have the precision of a realistic sculpture. It had to be somewhat abstract in this particular case. This forced me to look at lines, shapes and volumes without any symbolism before reconnecting them to the life they were meant to represent. This gave me the opportunity to see the creative expression in and of itself, without ascribing to it any value beyond that.
How did you choose to specialize in figural sculptures?
Early in my career I made wood carvings as well as mixed media sculptures, often combining rope, reeds and ceramics. These early works were an attempt to explore what I hoped at the time would be “shock and awe” as it addressed more fringe issues. It was perhaps a somewhat disingenuous way for me to proclaim boldness and unconventional thinking, but in truth it did not match who I was or my feelings at the time. It was definitely an exploratory phase.
The first piece of work I ever did that was an honest representation of my heart and my authentic response to life around me was of my daughter, my first child, after she was born. It was such a creation of love that I strove to model it exactly as I saw it; how it felt under my fingertips and how it made my soul feel. This expression of deep love was so fulfilling that I have been modeling stories of love ever since.
All three of my children, Alexa (26), Adiana (25) and Federico (19), as well as my two stepchildren, Dominick (15) and Emma (11), have been my beloved muses several times over the years. The development of my children – my children, of all people – is the greatest inspiration for my work. Their individual development always fascinates me and drives me to recreate their vibrancy and charisma.
In this quest for Truth… What do you like to reveal?
Every sculpture I create is an exercise in trying to stay grounded and centered, not reaching for surface threads that might pull me away from the depths. Each sculpture forces me to reevaluate how I can be of benefit to others. Especially lately, I find that the work as an artist is constantly evolving. Certainly in my life I have never experienced a year like 2020. In the United States, we suffered from a destabilizing political divide, renewed racial tensions, and the global pandemic hit us full force. I felt a sense of urgency… a need to somehow, some way shape what I was feeling in the face of this unprecedented crisis – what perhaps many of us were feeling.
In an effort to best pursue this emotional endeavor, I asked a friend if I could model a sculpture after her precious 3-year-old little girl. She sent me lots of photos and all the necessary measurements, and I began sculpting. I felt an insatiable urge to let the enormous inner beauty of the little girl radiate in my studio. It was as if I were trying to let the healing warmth of the sun itself radiate inward. In this sculpture, “Sunshine Every Day,” the little girl is driven by the wind, but she leans forward and takes in all the glory of the sun. Sunflowers and daisies also brave the wind and turn their full faces to the sun. It stands on a rainbow, for after the storm has passed, the sun will shine after all.
The problems of the world…
Racial tensions escalated dramatically in the spring of 2020. I carried with me an aspiration to shape a piece that would deliver a narrative of hope and promise. I wanted to find a way to reach a higher platform so that my voice of concern could be heard; to fuel hope and positivity about our future, which will ultimately be in the hands of our children. To help with my quest for a sound sculpture composition, I felt that I needed to have a better understanding of the history of racial segregation and systemic injustices, so I took a six-week course focused on racial reconciliation. Through our studies, I gained completely new and fact-based knowledge about racial struggles and prejudice. With this newfound understanding and appreciation, the sculpture “Bridge of Brotherhood” was born. Three young boys sit together on a bridge they built together as youngsters. They have already built the relationships that will carry them forward as they grow into a world they will share as equals. The bridge is designed to look as if the young boys built it themselves, with twigs and branches stretched across two tall mounds of stone covered in moss. The branches are tied together with twine, the boys’ little legs dangling over the edge, their gnarled knees one over the other, their arms around each other’s shoulders. Their faces are beautiful, full of wonder and innocence. They are unafraid.
Angela Mia Delavega. Contact
OFFICIAL SITE | delavegastudios.com
INSTAGRAM | instagram.com/delavegastudios
FACEBOOK | facebook.com/delavegastudios