Italo Scanga ‘returns’ to life via his works now on exhibit in Oceanside

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Born in southern Italy, Italo Scanga spent most of his life in the U.S., transforming found objects from nature, flea markets, and thrift stores into art. As a boy, he worked with a furniture maker and a man who carved images of saints. He was 14 when his family moved to Detroit. By the time he was 29, he had an MFA in sculpture from Michigan State, and was well on his way to an illustrious career that included exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world.

Italo Scanga in his Turquoise Street studio. Roy Porello

He spent his last 23 years in La Jolla, a UCSD professor known for his mentoring, his cooking, and his charisma. Blessed with a sense of history and humor, he loved color, icons, and surprising combinations of materials, and he crammed an amazing amount of sculpture, painting, and ceramics into his 69 years. He died in his Pacific Beach studio in 2001, cooking sausages for family and friends.

Now, 10 years later, the Oceanside Museum of Art is presenting “Looking for a Miracle?” an exhibit that focuses on Scanga’s ability to turn mundane things (like potatoes, kitchenware and hand tools) into “miraculous” celebrations of life.

Two of his five children, co-presidents of the board of the Italo Scanga Foundation, were present at the April 2 preview of the exhibition, which features sculptural works owned by the Foundation. Joseph Scanga, a San Francisco architect, introduced the exhibit. Katherine Scanga, who worked with her father in La Jolla and now manages international programs at the Rhode Island School of Design where he once taught, said the artist created the Foundation before his death.

‘Saint Behind Glass,’ one of the sculptures displaying the artist’s love of icons, bright colors, and surprising combinations of objects. Maurice Hewitt

“He died suddenly, and left four buildings full of objects and collections. I don’t think he ever threw anything away in his life!” she said. “He wanted to preserve his work and assist aspiring young artists, so one of the things the Foundation has done is set up a scholarship fund for undergraduate art students at UCSD.”

Glass artist Dale Chihuly, Scanga’s friend and colleague for more than three decades, is chairman of the Foundation’s board. “My father loved people,” Katherine Scanga said. “Art was his whole world, but he surrounded himself with interesting people. And he really was a great artist.”

If you go

Exhibit: “Italo Scanga: Looking for a Miracle?”

Location: Oceanside Museum of Art, 704 Pier View Way

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 1-4 p.m. Sundays until Aug. 21

Admission: $8-$5; free to students, military

Phone: (760) 435-3720


Related posts:

  1. Two museums display the new faces of quilting in San Diego
  2. New San Diego Museum of Art exhibits focus on two distinct British painters
  3. Art critic named to development post at MCASD
  4. Three artists take you ‘outside the box’ with inspired works opening Sunday at the Museum of Contemporary Art
  5. 250 years of Japanese woodblock prints go on exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art

Short URL:

Posted by Staff on Apr 28, 2011. Filed under A & E, Art Galleries & Institutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply

La Jolla Community Calendar


Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6

RSS North Coastal News

  • VA System Working with Local Providers to Reduce Wait Times July 28, 2014
    By Joseph Franz Wait times at the VA has been a common headline lately. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has come under fire as tens of thousands of veterans nationwide have been waiting three months or more to get their first VA medical appointment. This has caused dozens of investigations and led Veterans Affairs […]
  • Local camp shapes Solana Beach youth into community leaders July 28, 2014
    After attending the inaugural La Colonia de Eden Gardens Youth Leadership Camp last year, Edgar Vergara was inspired to make positive change in Solana Beach’s Eden Gardens community. Along with other local teens, the 15-year-old co-founded the youth group La Colonia Changers and recently hosted a town hall forum on underage drinking. Passionate about making […]
  • Del Mar Union School District approves new contract for superintendent July 28, 2014
    The Del Mar Union School District Board July 23 approved the new contract for Superintendent Holly McClurg through June 30, 2018. Per the contract, McClurg’s annual salary will be $185,000 with an annual doctoral stipend of $10,000. She will receive a car allowance of $400 a month, 25 vacation days, health benefits and a retirement contribution of $700 a mon […]