by Lisa DeLong
Artist goes on creative shopping spree, comes back with a gallery of animals.
When nineteen year old Tommy DiVita graduated from high school last year, he was accepted into thirteen art schools around the country, including UCLA. With so many opportunities ahead of him, the decision to attend California Institute of the Arts became clear after he visited the campus. The feeling of freedom to explore a variety of art forms was evident to Tommy, from the very first visit to the Cal Arts’ campus. That freedom took form in the sculptures he displayed in a recent art exhibit inspired by a class assignment to create sculpture only from items found at the 99 Cent Store.
Tommy’s vision to create animal sculptures was inspired by twelve different animal masks he’d found at the 99 Cent Store. The project took shape as he scoured the racks for plastic containers, laundry baskets, dolls, toys and even belts to create his own version of a modern day zoo including his elephant, gorilla, giraffe, zebra, pig, cat, rat, poodle, seal, rooster, dog, and even a puffin. The exterior of his creatures are just as interesting as the interior as the viewer discovers the corn on the cob in the belly of the rooster or the literal “little mermaid” inside the seal. According to Tommy, “When I create a piece I like it to be multifaceted.”
Not your average 99Cent Store shopper, the Cal Arts student found himself becoming a “regular” at his local store as he became a familiar face among the staff, holding up a gorilla mask and a set of plastic bowls, envisioning the completed creature, made him an eclectic shopper. Tommy wanted to do something to honor the animals which inspired him. “I wanted to emphasize things that are stereotyped around animals,” the Cal Arts freshmen stated.
With the exhibit over, Tommy hopes to use his sculptures to inspire future art projects, but in the mean time they will be keeping him company at his apartment. “I never throw anything away”, the artist said. “I already have some photography projects in mind for the poodle and the elephant”. Ever inspired, perhaps Tommy’s work will inspire future budding artists to seek formal training in the arts at our very own California Institute of the Arts as well.