HUNTINGDON, PA - July 25, 2012 - The renowned sculptor who created the now infamous bronze statue of Joe Paterno expressed some ambiguity and nostalgia about the artwork and its removal. He added, however, that the removal “had to be done” in light of the circumstances.
Angelo Di Maria of Reading, PA, said in a phone interview with The Communities@ The Washington Times that his primary concern is for the children who were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky. Regarding the release of the Freeh Report, which implicated Joe Paterno and other top officials at PSU for failing to take adequate action to eradicate the abuse, Di Maria feels that Paterno “made a mistake and a very big mistake.” For this reason, Di Maria understood the university’s decision to remove Paterno’s statue.
While Di Maria spent six months designing and creating the seven-foot tall, 900-pound, bronze statue, he said it is now “nothing more than 900 pounds of dead metal” to him. He added that he hopes the university stores the statue in a secret place. “I wouldn’t want it; it was part of Penn State and the students.”
Di Maria hopes that the removal of the statue, the four football players (which he also created), and the wall which stood behind the edifice will aid in the healing process. “I hope it helps to mend things … And to heal things,” at the University.
“I hope that other colleges or universities learn from this … So this never, ever happens again (to children).”
Di Maria also noted that he understands and sympathizes with those who have opposing points of view on the situation and the actions that were taken following the release of the Freeh Report.
Di Maria said he was not surprised when the statue was removed from its prominent location outside Beaver Stadium at Penn State. “I realized that this was going to happen,” Di Maria said. While not officially informed by the university prior to its removal, Di Maria knew that the statue’s fate was being discussed.
When commissioned to create the statue in 2001, Di Maria was excited about the “glorious” opportunity. “It was somewhat of a surreal experience.”
Di Maria was commissioned by “friends of Joe and Sue Paterno” and Penn State University to create the statue. “It was to be a surprise for him (Paterno).”
The first step in the process was to attend a football game and pose as a reporter so that he could take 150 photographs of Joe Paterno from the sidelines. He did this to capture Paterno’s expressions as he coached his team. Di Maria studied the photos, then created a 20-inch clay model of Paterno. He presented the model to one of Paterno’s daughters and others who knew Paterno. After the funders approved the model, Di Maria began the monumental task of constructing the huge statue.
Surprisingly, Di Maria said, the labor of “love and passion” took just six months. He expected the “huge” undertaking to take much longer. “We did it in record time,” he said.
The finished statue was incredible, not only in its likeness to Joe Paterno, but also in the well-delineated features and its detailed, realistic appearance: a true work of art. Di Marco is humble about his talent: “We all have something to give and share with the world.”
The statue of the Penn State mascot was also created by Di Maria and remains as a reminder of his talent to the campus and community.
Di Maria began his artistic endeavors as a very young child is Sicily, Italy. The 2008 recipient of the Pagoda Award and a member of the International Sculpture Center, Di Maria is best known for “his ability to capture expressions of the human face, which portrays his natural talent,” according the International Sculpture Center’s website.
Di Maria said he knew as a child that creating sculptures was something that was inherent in him. “It is just something that you know; that you do.”
The renowned artist is not letting the removal of the Paterno statue affect his determination. “It might have bothered me more when I was younger, but I am 65 years old … I have become a little stronger with age.”
The renewed attention on the statue has actually been positive for Di Maria. “I have been getting calls from out of state wanting things done by me … I guess there is something good that can come out of this.”
Ironically, the inscription on the wall that stood behind the statue quoted Joe Paterno as saying: “They asked me what I’d like written about me when I am gone. I hope they write I’ve made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”
Unfortunately, Paterno’s legacy could have been as wonderful as his coaching career had he simply taken appropriate action to stop Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children. A sad ending to an illustrious coaching career.
The students, football players, and employees at Penn State have begun taking positive steps toward restoring their educational institution’s reputation. Hopefully, the university will overcome this mountain and show the world that it will never permit such heinous acts to occur again. Then, the healing process truly can begin.
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