Sculptor’s designs relay messages about social issues
Chris Provenzano considers herself a political artist whose sculptures deal with social issues like the plight of immigrants and bees.
“I need to speak to people through my art. Each statue in ‘The Trabajadores,’ which means ‘The Workers,’ represents a person I have met,” she told the News-Press. “When I was growing up in the San Fernando Valley, our neighbors were a Mexican family, and I spent more time there than at home.
“I wanted to have the sculpted workers look dignified and proud. I wanted people to look at them and say, ‘They work very hard.’ I went into the field and took photos of their faces. The statue of the coyote represents coyotes that help the immigrants cross the border.”
It took her 18 months to create the life-size sculptures made of limestone and bronze.
Through her “The Business of Bees” sculpture, Ms. Provenzano, who lives in the Mussel Shoals community between Carpinteria and Ventura, focuses attention on “colony collapse disorder.
“We’re killing bees with pesticides, loss of habitat, climate change and disease. They are an incredibly important part of our ecosystem and food production,” she said.
Her design of the sculpture, which is 11 feet tall, was awarded a public art commission and is part of Ojai’s Art in Public Places. It is located on Bryant Circle at Ojai Valley Office Park in Ojai.
She also has a 20-foot-tall sculpture of an otter at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria.
Prices for her pieces range from $1,500 to $40,000.
“I love nature,” Ms. Provenzano said, adding that growing up in a family of artists “was a powerful driving force to be creative because that’s what the adults did in my world. Throughout my childhood, I watched my mother, father and grandparents express their creative energies through painting, sculpture and music, and I believe that is why I followed that path.
“My sense of design in painting and sculpture was strongly affected from working as a commercial sculptor making stylized animals for Disneyland and Universal Studios and other amusement parks,” she said. “I was employed by a novelty manufacturer for many years, where I created original clay animals, Halloween props and masks to be reproduced in vinyl or foam-filled latex. These products were mass-produced in the United States and Asia and sold to the public at amusement parks and retail stores.”
Ms. Provenzano, who earned her bachelor’s degree in art at UCSB, said she “fell in love” with sculpting in stone and bronze after discovering Art City Studios in Ventura.
“Before that, I thought I would be a painter. I do all my work at Art City Studios. It’s like going to a magical place.”
Among her professional affiliations are the Santa Barbara Art Association, Santa Barbara Sculptors Guild and San Buenaventura Artists Union. She is also a board member of the California Sculptors Symposium, an educational nonprofit.
“Since 2006, I have participated at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, teaching stone carving in conjunction with completing a monumental public art sculpture reflecting an underwater marine scene. This piece was a group project involving several Ventura sculptors from Art City and is located at the site,” said Ms. Provenzano.
“I’m very happy to have discovered my passion and to have people look at my work and think about relevant social issues.”