There’s something about Anna Massara that brings one immediately to the present moment. A peaceful air… a quiet knowing that extends warmth and unfolds as wings of grace and intent. Surrounded by her sculptures, she shares with me the delightful creations that vary from playful to regal. The mythical creatures express themselves in the forms of ancient beings, stately figures, windswept trees and sensuous mermaids. Our visit reveals a woman of immense compassion for both nature and animals. Anna leads me through the process of her artistic path.
Anna’s parents immigrated to Canada from Italy, and Anna has been back to Italy three times over her life to visit family, and be inspired by the Italian landscape, architecture and art. Her uncle too is an artist, and created decorative wall patterns out of plaster. Born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, Anna remembers as a child sitting and drawing on sheets of large paper from rolls her father would bring home from his sign shop. Her talent was surely apparent, but not encouraged because art was not believed to be conducive to creating a viable income. Anna took only one art course in high school, and upon the recommendation of a teacher, opted for typing as an elective rather than art. Throughout university, she did not go near the arts as she pursued psychology and Italian studies.
It wasn’t until she was teaching special education and industrial arts that Anna began to take night classes in pottery and stained glass. This fed her growing artistic craving and lead to her attending the Ontario College of Art where she learned much about representing the human form. Her confidence grew in trusting her talent and she began to show her work in 1992. She continued to show her work when she moved to Calgary, and for the past five and a half years, she has made Vancouver Island her home.
"Being on the Island inspires me.” Shares Anna. "Being near the ocean. Seeing the way a tree grows, bending out from a rock wall.” And it is apparent in her tree sculptures. The twisted trunks stretch out as though they have grown against the strength of consistent winds. The lush greenery clothes these strong trunks in emerald drapery. Upon closer inspection, one sees faces incorporated into the bark.
"’Tree beings’ made themselves.” Says Anna. "I saw a figure in one and went with it.”
DaVinci and Michaelangelo are definite inspirations, and Anna hangs examples of their work around her as she sculpts.
"I’ll see the way a lip looks here, or an eye looks there.” Her face sculptures are wondrous to behold.
"When I do faces, I’m trying to show emotion more than anything.” And the resulting creations show her success in achieving that portrayal of emotion. The photo shown here of the pious and peaceful faces in her sculpture for an Italian Church in Ontario illustrates her ability. Several pieces in the studio utilize a Patina technique that doesn’t require re-firing or glazing. The result is an aged look that gives wise character to her "ancient beings”.
Her home in Bowser has allowed for studio space and she teaches sculpting to both groups and individuals.
"Teaching isn’t my goal,” says Anna, although she has enjoyed inspiring others. "I’d like to have the freedom to spend my life creating art whenever the inspiration comes to me.”
She believes living simply is very important to allow the flow of creativity to emerge.
"Getting to know your creative self is a form of getting to know yourself – who you really are.”
Anna would like to spend more time creating animals. One of her next projects will be of a woman standing with an eagle on her shoulder. Other ideas include images of horses. Through our talk of animals, she shares the recent passing of her dog, Nakita Angel, who had lived a very difficult life before coming to live with Anna. As she draws on the energy of the universe during her creative process, Anna is acutely aware of the loving presence of a true kindred spirit.
"Her strength will continue to be an inspiration.”
This is a time of transition and Anna feels there is something awaiting her just around the corner. A next step on her journey as spirit and artist; and it will reveal itself when appropriate. The future holds the seed of great opportunity. It will lead her, no doubt, on a path of intention and guidance, ripe with delectable choices, loving experiences and creative endeavours.
Anna Massara’s work can be viewed at her Bowser Studio (tel: 250.757.2009), at Jahnke Goldsmiths in Parksville and Reflecting Spirit Gallery in Tofino. Interviewed/written by Nicole Shaw.
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