In Memoriam | Nevin Littlehale: 1967-2022In Memoriam | Wed Feb 15, 2023 | 2:22pm
The heat and molten metal splatter of sculpture-casting can be daunting, but Nevin Littlehale was not only a master of the art, but a generous one whose influence and knowledge continue to spread even now.
His former student Elizabeth Folk called Nevin an “epic legend,” with a passion for metal-casting that made him a leader in the community. “As a friend, educator, and mentor, he was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge, and his inspiration has been passed all over the world,” she said. “He taught me almost everything I know, and I’ve brought foundry to students at Cal Poly, S.L.O. The Santa Barbara casting community and so many others mourn and celebrate the life of this greathearted man. May we all strive to share our life’s passions as Nevin did.”
Nevin Littlehale passed away in Los Angeles on December 14, 2022. After living between New York and Italy for many years, Nevin settled in Santa Barbara, where he taught at Santa Barbara City College, sharing his passion for sculpting. He volunteered for The Arts Fund, worked for Santa Barbara Beautiful and the Santa Barbara Art Museum, served as a member of Santa Barbara’s Sculptor’s Guild, and produced private and public commissions.
In Santa Barbara, he improved his clay and wax sculpting, especially defining the wax-pulling techniques used in his bronze works. Nevin was deeply interested in sculpting three-dimensional forms, and his work spanned from the beautiful and sweet to the macabre. But in his teaching and mentorship, his students said he made life more meaningful.
“I have a mastery over the three-dimensional world because you were willing to teach me,” his student and later employee Ali Miarkiani wrote to Nevin. “You told me the first day you hired me, ‘All I need you to do is show up.’ And you stood by that. I can’t count the number of times I messed up, but you never once got angry. You just told me how to fix it and then patiently helped me.” Nevin had taught him how to make the world a more beautiful place, he said: “You made me a better sculptor, a better artist, a better teacher, a better person, and a better friend. I am where I am in life because of you. You’re a beautiful soul, and you’ve made beautiful objects in more ways than just art.”
Nevin’s nephew, Julian Littlehale, watched the bronze sculpting process starting at 4 years old when his “Nuncle” was working alongside Ed Inks at the SBCC foundry. In high school, with Nevin’s help in The Arts Fund’s youth mentor program, Julian producing his first sculpture, and he then worked beside Nevin until his passing. “Nevin knew a lot and saw the truth in pretty much everything,” Julian said. “Then he would get turbulent about it, and that’s where Nevin became Nevin. He taught me that the world is your medium – you’re extracting something out of a material, but you’re not creating; it’s already there; you just have to remove everything that surrounds it, taking what you need from what already exists because you can’t create anything that doesn’t already exist. More than anything, you just need to see what’s there.”
Nevin’s expertise was cherished, along with the friendships that came from the connections made through his work. Robert Adams, who started working with Nevin in 2012 while spearheading a redesign of the plaques for the Santa Barbara Beautiful (SBB) commemorative tree plots, said, “Nevin made it happen.” He took architect Steve Howes’s illustration, redesigned it a bit to make the model for a mold, and produced the beautiful plaques still being used throughout Santa Barbara. Robert described Nevin as a “can-do, optimistic type of person,” whose knowledge of sculpting and his ability to use various CAD programs illustrated his incredible work ethic. “He was always very dedicated to this project. I think part of it, too, is that we had a good friendship, and he was always there for friends. He put in the extra effort on everything, and I’ve met just a couple people like that. I will miss him the rest of my life,” Robert stated.
Please join Nevin’s family for his Celebration of Life at Palm Park Beach House, 236 East Cabrillo Boulevard, on February 26, from 2-4 p.m. As we gather to remember Nevin as a son, brother, uncle, friend, and artist, his family will welcome anyone who wishes to say a few words in his honor. For further information, please see fb.me/e/2DhEYgFbg.
To learn more about Nevin, please visit independent.com/obits/2023/01/25/nevin-odriscoll-littlehale, and to see more of Nevin’s art and accomplishments, please visit nevinsart.com.
“Elements” (left), mixed-media sculpture, later cast in bronze, private collection; “Holocaust,” wax-pulling technique, bronze, private collection | Credit: Courtesy
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