In 1965, Tony DeLap left the security of a comfortable teaching position at UC Davis--and a growing reputation as an artist in the San Francisco area--for the uncertainties of teaching at a brand new school in rural Orange County.
The school was UC Irvine, where DeLap has now taught for 20 years, all the while widening his niche in the art world. DeLap will talk about his life as an artist and teacher--and magic aficionado-- tonight in the University Club Lounge on campus as part of an ongoing lecture series featuring distinguished faculty.
DeLap, 59, teaches advanced painting and a course in architecture and oversees the graduate studio art program at UCI. A professor of studio art, he was the second person hired for the school's fledgling art program. The first, John Coplans, persuaded him to make the move south.
"He gave me a good sales pitch about coming down to Irvine," DeLap recalled this week during an interview at his Corona del Mar studio. "Having been a product of the San Francisco Bay area, and having been just recently married, it just seemed to be more of an adventure to leave home."
DeLap's most visible work is in large-scale public sculpture, examples of which can be seen in front of the Newport Harbor Art Museum and at the Pacific Mutual Building at Newport Center Fashion Island.
"Those kinds of projects I like very much," DeLap said. "I like them for that scale and the fact that they, for periods of time, get me out of the studio."
The artist will have more chances to get out of the studio in the near future. Last week, DeLap won a $60,000 commission from the IDM Development Corp. of Long Beach and the Public Corp. for the Arts (Long Beach) to create a sculpture at a new office complex to be built in Long Beach.
DeLap's paintings and drawings have gained attention as well and are regularly exhibited at galleries in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. DeLap said that the three media in which he works--sculpture, painting and drawing--influence each other and sometimes cross over into hybrids.
"A characteristic of my work is that certain things work off of each other. The paintings are really hybrids in the sense that they are, up to a point, sculptural," DeLap explained, comparing the often twisted surfaces and edges of his paintings to his sculptural work.
DeLap is a frequent traveler and says his journeys are important to his craft. In 1984, he took time off from teaching and went with his family to Paris, where they rented a small apartment. He used a corner of the apartment as a work space for his painting and drawing.
One area DeLap visits regularly is British Columbia in Canada, and he cites the art of the Northwest Indians as an influence on his work.
Another influence on DeLap's creations is stage magic. A magic enthusiast since age 12, DeLap says he is an avid reader on the subject and a "reluctant magician" himself. "I'll try to bumble my way through a few little tricks when I do my lecture," DeLap said.
Magic, DeLap continued, is a conscious influence on his art. "Some of my early sculpture was built somewhat on the premise of several parts being able to take different configurations," he explained. "I think the inspiration for that is doing card tricks.
"Art and magic seem to certainly be a natural. I think that all art, if it works, is magical in some way."
Tonight's lecture is part of a series titled "Search for Knowledge: A Personal Journey." DeLap said he plans to talk about his work and career, interspersing the discussion with slides and a few magic tricks.