Wednesday, August 10, 2022

U alumnus, artist dies at 69

August 1, 2001

MSU alumnus Italo Scanga, an internationally known sculptor and painter, died Friday from a heart attack. He was 69.

Friends of Scanga, who is known for his works from everyday items in a style that blended cubist and folk influences, said he will be missed by the MSU community.

“He’s a dear friend,” said Irving Taran, an MSU professor of painting who knew Scanga professionally and as a friend. “I’m just stunned right now and at a loss for words. He was a sweet man, a MSU alumnus and a terrific artist.”

Scanga received a bachelor’s degree from MSU in 1960 and a master’s degree in sculpture a year later. He had classes with screenwriter Jim Cash, who became an MSU English professor and died in March 2000 at age 59.

Scanga came back to MSU in 1987 to be honored with the College of Arts and Letters Distinguished Alumni Award, when Taran served as the chairperson of the Department of Art.

“He loved it here,” Taran said. “He wore green socks.”

Scanga, a professor of visual art at the University of California at San Diego, encouraged students, said Susan Bandes, director of the Kresge Art Museum.

“He loved life and to interact with students,” she said.

Bandes said Kresge has three of Scanga’s prints in its collection and a freestanding sculpture piece he did while he was a graduate student.

“It’s very interesting because a lot of ideas he played with and explored in his careers are in his early piece,” she said.

Taran remembers a visit with Scanga, and his desire to eat popcorn and look at art sculptures at 1 a.m. in Lansing.

“It was a silly moment in his own crazy way,” Taran said. “We had to find the perfect popcorn.”

Scanga’s works can be found in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other locations.

Scanga was born in Lago, Italy. He immigrated to the United States after World War II. Before attending MSU, he worked on a General Motors assembly line and served in the U.S. Army.

He is survived by his companion, Su-Mei Yu, five children from a previous marriage and four grandchildren.


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