PEOPLE OF INTEREST
Cristina de la Vega has received widespread acclaim for painting picturesque landscapes that remind viewers to savor and preserve the beauty in nature.
BY DONNA CRARY
Cristina de la Vega paints landscapes that capture
the stunning, stark beauty of nature. Whether it’s
a picturesque scene of a high bluff overlooking the
Indian River, a pasture dotted with scrub and palmetto
trees under an endless sky, or a back river portrait of the
St. Lucie snaking through lush green vegetation — each of
her paintings arrests your attention and makes you feel as
though you are there.
“I paint wild places — the natural world as untouched as I
can find,” she says. “I want the viewer to feel as if they are in
the landscape, a part of nature.”
A resident of Stuart, de la Vega’s artwork has received local
and statewide acclaim. In 2009, she was recognized by the
State of Florida as the Hispanic Artist of the Year. She was
also selected as an artist-in-residence at Everglades National
Park. Her work has been displayed at the capitol and the
governor’s mansion in Tallahassee, as well as in art galleries
throughout South Florida.
De la Vega was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1954, a time when
Fidel Castro was beginning to stir up political unrest. She remembers
developing an interest for art while attending grade
school in her earlier years.
“I went to a small Catholic girls’ school in Havana,” she
says. “It was during the end of the revolution and the situation
was pretty scary. The nuns at the school were living
under tremendous strain. It was a hard time. The art nun let
me spend most of the days in the art room. I loved it, but my
math skills have certainly suffered!”
By 1961, Castro’s government had taken over the schools
and was sending children to communist indoctrination
camps. Although de la Vega’s family had deep roots in Cuba
going back to colonial times, they felt they had no other
choice but to leave their homeland.
They learned about Operation Peter Pan, a covert program
that arranged for more than 14,000 unaccompanied minors to
seek refuge in the United States from Cuba. Organized by the
The ENVIRONMENTAL ARTIST