NILDA M. COMAS
I have taken the road less traveled by and built my career on the rock of Classical tradition. Like the wise man who built his house on stone, I have an in-depth knowledge of anatomy and art techniques from years of study at universities, with master artists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and apprenticeships with listed sculptors. From this base, I now express my ideas and concepts with the technically confident skill of a master sculptor, often creating my sculptures from the same marble used by Michelangelo five hundred years ago.
I was bom in San Juan on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico in 1953. I am fluent in English, Spanish, Italian and French. As long as I remember, I have been an artist. As a child I copied in oils several paintings from the permanent collection of Museo de Arte de Ponce, including a painting by Velazquez. My grandfather Pedro Juan Santiago, now deceased, was CEO for Serralles Industries for fifty years, and part of the original group who raised funds to build Museo de Arte de Ponce. While visiting my grandparents who lived on the same street of the recently built museum, I would spend my vacations copying the paintings.
In 1969 I graduated from High School with honors and went on to attend the Universidad de Puerto Rico in San Juan for studies in Humanities and Philosophy. At that time, it was not possible to obtain a B.F.A. at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, so I enrolled in Sam Houston State University, in Huntsville, Texas to study Fine Arts. I was married in 1971 and later transferred to University of Houston, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. In 1998, I graduated cum laude with an MFA from The New York Academy of Art, after winning the highest award, an Andy Warhol Scholarship. Just after graduation, my post-graduate studies were accomplished at Accademia de Belle Arti di Carrara in Italy.
Internationally recognized for my work, I maintain studios in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Pietrasanta, Italy. Considered by many to be the sculpture capital of the world, Pietrasanta offers access to the finest marble, skilled artigiani and bronze foundries. Originally, I went to Pietrasanta on the advice of famed sculptor Bruno Lucchesi. Once there, I leamed the techniques of bronze casting at the Foundry of Art Massimo del Chiaro and worked alongside artists such as Lucchesi, Harry Marinsky, Stanley Bleifeld, Botero, Mitoraj and Ivan Theimer.
I became a professional sculptor in 1991. In 1994, I exhibited at The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 1994, I exhibited in a group exhibition at The Royal Palm Beach Gallery, in Palm Beach, Florida. Also, in 19941 assisted sculptor Robert St. Croix, a Palm Beach sculptor who was highly gifted and successful. At his foundry I leamed enlarging, mold-making and foundry work in general. This work led me to meet master sculptor Barry Johnston. Barry encouraged me to go to Pietrasanta, Italy, as he introduced me to my current foundry, one of the best in the world, Del Chiaro Foundry. It was not until 1995 that I went to Pietrasanta, to work for sculptor, Tony Bruchert. My job involved retouching and preparing waxes for casting in bronze. Additionally, I was responsible for overseeing the workers at the foundry. During this same period, I was invited to apprentice master sculptor Marcello Tommasi in Florence, Italy. It was at Fonderia Del Chiaro where I met Joseph Sheppard, who not only became a mentor and teacher, but a most admired friend. I perfected my art with Sheppard's guidance, who along with Lucchesi, encouraged me to attend the New York Academy of Figurative Art, and hence I applied. In 1996, I exhibited at The National Arts Club in New York, New York. In 1996 I acquired my first award, The Andy Warhol Scholarship, the largest grant ever awarded to a student attending the New York Academy of Art. While a student, I served as an assistant to Professor Anthony Visco.
In 1997, I was in a group exhibition in Fort Lauderdale at the Florida Collector's Gallery. In 1997-1998 was awarded the Merit Grant from The New York Academy of Art, NYC. While I was in New York, the National Sculpture Society awarded me a bronze medal and the Agop Agopoff Memorial Prize for my first rendition marble of a melancholic woman entitled Melancolia. I brought to life the depth of feeling from the stone, using brilliance of light and shadow and fonm, where a woman's head and breasts seemed to heave with emotion. 1998, I exhibited at Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara, Italy, also in 1998, I exhibited in an exhibition sponsored by Fort Lauderdale's Downtown Development Authority. During 1998, I assisted sculptor Esther Wertheimer in the summertime in Pietrasanta, Italy with the production of seven sculptures in bronze. Each sculpture was nine feet in height. This experience prepared me in great detail to understand the production process of large sculpture projects. In 1999, I exhibited at Ars Nova 2000 Chiostro di Sant'Agostino, in Pietrasanta, Italy. Then in the same year, I exhibited in an outdoor exhibition in Fort Lauderdale entitled Art in the Downtown.
From 1998 thru 2003, I maintained a studio at Laboratorio di Marmi owned by Franco Cervietti of Pietrasanta, Italy. All over the world, this is considered to be the most prestigious and renown studio for marble carving. I studied under Master Carver Enzo Pasquini, while attending the Accademia de Bella Arti di Carrara. Laboratorio Cervietti ownes the largest private collection of plaster casts in the world. Famous sculptors like Botero, Vangi, Finotti, Lollobrigida, Theimer, Folon and Mitoraj make their marble sculptures there. Visiting regularly the marble quarries allowed me to learn about this precious material, thus creating a passion for marble sculpting. With the immense experience from apprenticeships and intense academic education, I had laid the foundation to create outstanding and meaningful art of my own expression. I realized that with this thorough knowledge of the technical complexities of the craft I'd be able to produce art that was personally true to my own nature, as a three dimensional commentary on the human spirit.
1998 thru 2003 were very formidable for me, as I had the opportunity to apprentice with many of the master carvers of Italy including not only the Cecvietti brothers. but also with Pasquini, Mutti and Landi. l met many famous patrons and collectors, who came to the studio. I made trips to Montecarlo to visit sculptor Folon and to the Palace representing the Cervietti studio. The largest bas relief in the United States was completed, in this studio in 1999. It was carved in marble by the artisans from the model made by George Carr. I was invited to work in this project and was chosen, as one of three carvers to travel to Washington D.C. to retouch the sculpture, after it was installed in the Basilica. Meanwhile back in the States, in 1999 in the city of Fort Lauderdale I had won a sculpture competition that was sponsored by the Downtown Development Authority. The help of patron Howard Bates donating this same sculpture to the Colee Hammock city park, gave me my first public art opportunity.
In 2001 and 2002, I traveled to China, Kuale Lumpur, Thailand and Hong Kong where I visited foundries, museums and for the first time studied Asian culture. The National Sculpture Society awarded me in 2001 for a second time the Agop Agopoff Memorial for a marble scuipture entitled Life B.
During the time I had my studio in Pietrasanta, I had the good fortune to serve as an assistant to sculptor Ivan Theimer, at Fonderia Del Chiaro. He was working in creating a monument in the form of a 66 foot obelisk to celebrate wine and its history. It was commissioned by the French government to be installed at the main plaza in Bordeaux.
In 2003, I continued to perfect my art by supporting myself as an artist through commissioned work and by expanding inno painting. I studied portrait painting with Nelson Shanks in Palm Beach Florida. During this same time period, I participated in several juried shows and won the following awards:
- First Prize in Sculpture from the Hambro Bank, London, UK, 2003
- Best in Show Award from the Westminister 142nd Exhibition of Women Artists, London, UK, 2003
- Invitation to tea and to view Prince Charles' art collection at Highgrove, 2003
- The Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club Award for Excellence in Figurative Sculpture at the National Arts Club, in NYC, in 2004
In 2004, I started to teach sculpture workshops to adults from my studio in the United States, The Legacy Art Studio, located 3 blocks from the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. Teaching has been very rewarding.
In 2005, I was one of twelve figurative artists who studied under Joseph Sheppard, that were invited to participate in an exhibition known as "The Legacy.." This exhibition is under the sponsorship of the University of Maryland and has traveled to museums throughout the United States. A book of all works in the exhibition was published to accompany the exhibition. Some of the venues and museums where my work has been exhibited as part of the group exhibition, 'The Legacy,' are University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005; The Midwest Museum of American Art, Indiana, 2005; The Westervelt Wamer Museum of American Art in Alabama in 2005; The Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University, New York, 2006; Wayne Stark Galleries, Texas A.& M. University, Texas, 2006; The Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala, Florida. in 2006; The Jule Collins Smith Museum at Auburn University in Alabama in 2007; the Springfield Museum of Art in Ohio in 2007 and The University of Toledo in Ohio in 2007.
In Wellington, Florida I was invited to be part of the lnternational Palm Beach Biennale in 2006 where I was awarded an Award for Excellence and also delegated to speak as a Master Artist.
I have lectured at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale and at the Appleton Museum in Ocala, Florida, in 2006.
In October 2007 WLRN aired a documentary on the arts filmed in my Fort Lauderdale studio "The Legacy Art Studio,' including interviews of a few of my collectors, my students and myself.
In 2007, I expanded my Sculpture and drawing instruction to students not only in the United States, but also creating the opportunity for my students to study in Pietrasanta, Italy, three times a year. In 2007, also I expanded by teaching children in my studio. In 2007 in August, I won a grant from The Broward County Cultural Division in Fort Lauderdale to give scholarships to children with interests in the arts. The children scholarship workshops took place at The Legacy Art Studio. They were an immense success. In the Fall of 2007, I won another grant from The Broward County Cultural Division to offer my teaching to twice as many children as the initial scholarship program. I also received a grant to teach homeless seniors at my studio in 2008. In 2009 I taught art classes at the Broward Partnership for the homeless under a Broward County Cultural Foundation Grant.
I continue to have a studio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and in Pietrasanta, Italy, where I maintain residencies and also teach in Puerto Rico. New workshops are offered in 2010 at my Legacy Art Studio and also abroad. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to serve and study with some of the world's most important artists. I am committed to developing sculptures in the classical style, which will stand the test of time. In order-to produce an enduring-work of art, it is necessary to study the disciplines from the ancient Greeks, the Renaissance and Baroque to the present. These established standards, which demand knowledge of composition, perspective, form, draftsmanship and anatomy as the vehicles enable me to bring my personal visions to life.
Currently. I am working on finding funding to build a marble monument in Washington, D.C. to missing children, since there exists no international monument on this topic.
Through all of my learning I remain to believe that the true value of making art for me begins with deep self-revelation. Mostly, artwork serves many functions in society. Perhaps, the most central is that of communication. Currently, I am producing a body of art, a collection of 12 Carrara marble figurative sculptures, entitled THE KISS COLLECTION, which will communicate the many forms of kissing, one of the beautiful acts of humanity, in a technique that is traditional, exploring the illicit and proper and the forbidden and condoned aspects of kissing. I am determined and committed as a professional fine artist to dedicate my vision of humanity by using the Classical principles.
Nilda Comas, MFA, NSS