Christina Grace Mastrangelo
Christina Grace Mastrangelo (b. 1983) grew up in Western Massachusetts. Always fascinated by figurative painting, her passion first ignited during a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum and was further cultivated in her adolescent years amidst travels to the Louvre and Vatican Museums. While pursuing her degree in Studio Art at James Madison University, Christina further developed her interests abroad, studying Humanism, Italian, and Art History at the British Institute in Florence. She painted and absorbed the abundance of art in the city in her spare time. Immediately following graduation, she returned to Florence to attend the rigorous drawing and painting program at Angel Academy of Art. In 2009, after three years of training, she graduated and returned to the U.S. where she has been pursuing her painting career ever since.
Florence seriously molded Christina’s artistic vision; at the atelier, she learned the traditional processes of working from life, studied and mastered materials, explored art history from the artist’s perspective, and pursued realistic painting and drawing of portraits, figures, and still lifes. The city and the culture of Europe enveloped her, something that continues to influence her aesthetic today. She works in a style called Classical Realism: one that represents nature realistically, often idealized, to achieve order, harmony, completeness, and beauty.
Christina has shown at The European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, the Villa Bardini in Florence, and has had two solo shows in Florence as well as one at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Art in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her most recent awards were from the Art Renewal Center, Portrait Society of America, Oil Painter’s of America, and the Salmagundi Club. She is currently represented by the Guild of Boston Artists in Boston and Williams Fine Art Dealers in Wenham, Massachusetts.
Christina also teaches at the Academy of Realist Art in Boston, the Florence Studio in Italy, and the Wethersfield Academy for the Arts in Connecticut during the summers. Additionally, she uses Patreon as an educational platform for those interested in learning about traditional process and technique. Christina currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida, with her husband, artist Nicholas McNally.
Q&A WITH CHRISTINA MASTRANGELO
What concept or narrative is behind the painting, The Edge of The World ?
The Edge of the World is about this moment that we inhabit together; this rising tide, the treading of water, clinging to the surface, searching for fresh air—and hope. I call it The Edge of The World because it feels like a tangible place we have been pushed to—where the truth has been pushed under. There’s so much examining and judging...such struggle…always together, and yet always so alone. I know many women who are tired, and others who are freshly awakened. This theme is not held exclusively to our time now, but feels very relevant in the current context of our nation. This is my latest in a series that explores our existence and the things that we struggle with as people.
What was it about the subject that made you paint it just so? What are you saying with this piece?
In today’s society, we send a cultural message with the way women are portrayed. My goal was to paint the female body in a way that showed strength and beauty. The nudity was partially to strip away the context of a time period, and partially to make a statement that our bodies can be shown nude and not be sexualized. When a woman artist paints another woman, there is a lot transferred from artist to the art, and what I was trying to do was give them a relatable presence through realism, and a space to just be.
What is your ultimate goal for your artwork?
I’d like to connect a broad audience with the beauty of the human form in its natural state while relaying a narrative that is respectful, universally understood, embraces diversity, and is applicable across many time periods. My vision is of a solo show with huge wall-sized paintings filled with life-sized figures, all depicting the progress of overcoming human struggle. My vision carries the same models across each piece, where they reappear and disappear until the end where they emerge fulfilled. I’d like to push the boundaries of my training, hire models and have them there to paint from life for the majority of the painting so I can breathe as much life and experience into them as possible. I also imagine having music composed to compliment my theme so that the emotion can connect with the viewer both visually and audibly.
Do you ever venture out of your creative process to try new things?
Yes, I’m always pushing myself out of my comfort zone. My figure-painting experience was limited for many years to solitary figure studies of the human form outside of context. This is a common place many classical realist painters get stuck in when they leave school—we have a skill-set, but are still limited by our capacities to go outside of our classical studies. One example of this is that I never learned to paint landscapes or flowers, so I went out there and painted them until I began to understand. My creative process has definitely morphed with what I’m doing now by placing multiple figures together in a made-up scene. This goes far beyond my training in classical realism, in which we paint exactly what we see in front of us. I attribute this venturing to my end goal as an artist to paint elaborate figurative work like that done in the late 1800s, but also to my artist husband who comes from an illustration background, working imaginatively with the narrative and his references. He just did two epic 9 and 12-foot figurative paintings in a series called Exiles. His name is Nicholas McNally. I couldn’t ask for more inspiration, and he influences my work immensely; my themes are more relevant, my paintings more figurative, and I’m working more creatively with my subjects. If I wasn’t challenging myself, I’d still be painting still-lifes and single portraits—but that was an unfulfilling place for me. Challenging myself is a huge part of my existence, and even if it’s slow at times, I don’t see that ever stopping.
How much time is dedicated to the execution of the work before you actually start the process?
There were countless hours of thought and preparation that went into this piece. It was originally a complex idea that was sketched out in thumbnail form. I hired models who posed both in tandem and alone for the poses I had in mind, and then I chose specific images and composed them in a way that helped confirm my narrative—which also evolved as it was emerging. One thing that delays the process is that it’s harder than one might think to depict the nude female body with integrity and respect in a culture that is quick to think otherwise. This composition took both many hours to do, then many hours to think about and change. Once it was visually solidified with references, I did a color study to see what it would look like with the addition of water and how the interplay of light and dark shapes helped move the eye across the canvas. This all helped inform the final piece.
Do you have a motto or process you always stick to? If so, what is it?
I like to start with a wash drawing painted directly onto the canvas. The loose medium allows me to explore and I don’t project, grid, or trace, but develop the images organically. I paint in layers until the form and realism emerges. I feel like working with the subjects this way embodies them with more soul, and this becomes even more apparent when working from life. My motto is to paint every day, always be curious, keep pushing, and to never give up.
What is your education? Exhibition history? What awards have you won, and what collections are your works in?
Classical Training | Angel Academy of Art, Florence, Italy (2006-2009)
Studio Art BA | Honors College at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA (2002-2006)
Most notably, my work has been shown in museums such as:
Villa Bardini in Florence, Italy
The European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM) in Barcelona, Spain
The D’Amour Museum of Fine Art in Springfield, Massachusetts (including one solo and one group show)
I show constantly with my two galleries:
The Guild of Boston Artists | Boston, MA
Williams Fine Art Dealers | Wenham, MA
Art Renewal Center:
The Knohl Award for Artwork Inspired by Literature (2015) for Know Not Thy Pending Fate
Michael Budden Award (2015)
JoAnne Leister Award (2014)
The President’s Award (2012)
My artwork is in private collections in the US and Europe, including England, Italy, and Holland.
What is the price range of your art?
My narrative figure work is around $17/square inch, with this 24”×24” piece being priced at $9800. My still-life paintings are currently selling at $14/square inch.
What is the average size of your artwork?
Around 16”×20”—but it’s getting larger with each new figure piece. My largest, including the custom frame, is 5’×8’. My smallest is 5”×7”.
How many works have you sold recently?
In the past three months, I’ve sold 6 paintings. Two plein air paintings were sold off the easel as I was painting them in New Hampshire a few weeks ago, which was fun!