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Leaving behind teaching career, artist describes symbolism of her work

Graduate student Christina Di Staola began her MFA in Fine Arts at UM after teaching English in Italy for 30 years. Di Staola is pursuing a career as a still-life painter. Josh White // Contributing Photographer

Graduate student Christina Di Staola began her MFA in Fine Arts at UM after teaching English in Italy for 30 years. Di Staola is pursuing a career as a still-life painter. Josh White // Contributing Photographer

Christine Di Staola worked as an English teacher in Italy for 30 years until she moved to Miami to pursue a career in art as a still-life painter. Because of her “you only live once” attitude, she is now one of six students in the 2016 UM graduate class pursuing an MFA in Fine Arts.

 The Miami Hurricane: When did you begin your art career?

Christine Di Staola: I grew up in Hamilton, Ohio and decided to move to Pesaro, Italy to teach English at one of the schools there. I taught English in Italy for 30 years and I would incorporate art history and literature in my teaching and got into drawing from there.

TMH: How did you make the decision to leave a 30-year career?

D: It was hard, I thought about it for a while and my series of paintings called “Chair” is symbolic of my time contemplating the decision. But I wanted to pursue art, so when I got accepted to UM, I visited the school and instantly felt at home. I came back to Italy, sold my car, packed 20 boxes of my things and left.

TMH: What made you like the UM MFA program?

D: Nothing compared to UM. The other grad schools I visited were not focused on you but on your online status and how to get your art more noticeable. At UM, the program focuses on you and has a genuine concern for how you feel and tries to help you become the best artist you can be.

TMH: Were you nervous about starting a whole new career?

D: No, I was mostly worried that because I am much older than the other students, I am 50 years old, that I would feel like an outcast but I don’t feel that way at all. The other students and teachers are excellent. Everyone is so different, yet so supportive. No one is judgmental at all, we are like a community.

TMH: What kind of art do you focus in?

D: I use oil and watercolor to paint still-life paintings of what’s real and what is going on around me.

TMH: What is your process like of painting a piece?

D: Because I focus more on still-life, which in a way is old-fashioned compared to other artists nowadays, I am vulnerable to weather changes and nature. For example, my painting “Chairs” took me a few days to finish because when I began painting, it was sunny outside and the light cast a beautiful glow, but the next day it was foggy and the room had a red cast so it did not look the same. I had to wait for it to be sunny again.

TMH: How long does it usually take you to finish a piece?

D: I work slowly and I rely on the sun and the weather, so on average it takes me around two to five days, which is very different than some of my other classmates that can be done in a few minutes.

TMH: Where do you see yourself in the future?

D: I want to be working and painting. I would like to go back to teaching art and language but who knows what will happen, I am still trying to get through today.

TMH: Do you have any advice to give aspiring artists?

D: Not just aspiring artists, but for anyone who has a dream, I say as the kids like to say, “YOLO.” Do whatever makes you happy and do it now. Take chances, because there is no reason to wait to do what you love.

This Q&A is part of a series on the artists that were featured in the UM 2016 Incoming Graduate Student Exhibition that ran at the UM Art Gallery in Wynwood until Sept. 26.

September 29, 2016

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.