Extended Biography 2007 by John M. Soderberg, father & mentor
Misty Soderberg was born in Phoenix, Arizona. She was unusually content to sit and observe with intense wonder the strange new world outside her crib. She began drawing with crayon and pencil only months old, and given a choice, would almost always choose art materials over toys.
She was fascinated by all living things. Her tiny fingers, with amazing dexterity, could pick up an ant, study it unbitten, and set it down unharmed. Before she could walk or talk, Misty demonstrated that most essential quality of the fine artist–her deep capacity for empathy. One night at a family dinner, her grandmother pretended to be crying. Misty, deeply worried, climbed down from her father’s lap, crawled around the table to grandma’s chair, climbed up into her lap, and patted her shoulder while cooing anxiously and staring into her eyes.
I, her father, was at this time a fine art jeweler and painter. Misty attended her first art shows cross-country in a collapsible crib in our booth. She would draw incessantly and glance up occasionally at the crowds of people passing by.
The family moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, so that I could work in a bronze casting foundry and pursue my first love–sculpture. We lived in a rusted trailer out in the woods with no television and little money. With her sister Heather, Misty explored nature outside, and in the evenings made art. She would watch me working with clay and wax, and at the age of one, asked for some clay. She sat down near my desk and with total attention and focus, created several small sculptures of animals and people. Amazed, I cast them in bronze. Over the next few months, the sisters produced over 100 figures from one to three inches high and I cast them all in bronze and mounted them on wooden bases.
When Misty was one and a half years old, I was invited to my first group art show as a sculptor. Misty, knowing she was a sculptor as well, felt she should also be in the show. She decided, at her own choice, to go professional, so I set up some of her bronzes on a card table next to my display, along with her sister’s. The girls outsold everyone in the show, including me. I sold nothing.
A Scottsdale art-gallery owner, amazed at the work, invited the sisters to show in her gallery as professional artists. (It would be some years before I was able to show in my first gallery.) Paul Harvey viewed the girl’s bronzes, was quite impressed, and included Misty and Heather in his radio show broadcast from Chicago. Misty was two years old. Other galleries followed, including one in Houston, Texas, and media attention grew. They were filmed by “That’s Incredible” for national television, and were interviewed numerous times on Arizona State television, and in various magazines and newspapers.
Clarissa, Misty’s mom and I, spent some time discussing the young prodigy. We agreed never to push her to create art, but to let her develop at her own pace. We also agreed to let the Misty make her own professional decisions.
By the time she was ready to enter Kindergarten, I had been selling successfully as well, so our family moved to Scottsdale for business reasons.
As a pre-schooler, Misty entered a Scottsdale-wide art competition competing against students up to sixth-grade. She won, and her art-work went to Washington, D.C. for national competition.
In Kindergarten, Misty modelled for, then helped sculpt, a life-sized bronze of Cynthia Parker as a child. Burt Reynolds bought it as a present for Sally Fields.
After one year in Scottsdale, we moved to a ranch in Camp Verde, Arizona to work and live. We acquired 140 animals, many of which were rescues, including monkeys, African cats, peacocks, llamas, horses, goats, cats, dogs, etc. Misty did her share of ranch chores, feeding and caring for all the animals.
At this time, I began to receive commissions for monumental bronzes. Misty worked as assistant on all of my monuments, working in clay with me, helping with mold-making, then later when she learned metal working, grinding and sanding the bronzes. The monuments were commissioned by cathedrals and churches, corporations, private collections, and foundations including Amnesty International, Texas Winery Products, Pepsico Corporation, Burger King, and the Crystal Cathedral. She also assisted on my private, non-commissioned bronzes.
Misty accompanied us on cross-country art shows and unveilings of monuments, helping set up displays and talking to collectors. She was allowed to cut school for two weeks in the fifth grade, (doing her homework every day,) to assist me in my first one-man show in New York., then a group show in Chicago. After show hours, we visited the Chicago Art Institute and the Field Museum, then drove to Washington, D.C. to spend several days at the Smithsonian Institute Museums and various art galleries.
Misty graduated junior high as salutatorian, with honors, then attended the prestigious Verde Valley School Academy, where she received the studio arts award. After graduation, she attended Northern Arizona University, where she was recognized as highest ranking freshman scholar. She continued for some time to work professionally as primary assistant on my monumental work, as well as director of my apprentices and students. Her own sculpture continued to evolve.
After some years in the professional art field, selling her work in various galleries and national shows, Misty, as all great talents must, rebelled. She needed to experience life as a “normal” person. She left Arizona in her mid-twenties to live and work in Maui, Hawaii. She worked various jobs, and after her five years sabbatical in the world of “normalcy,” Misty, suffering from extreme island-fever, decided to return to the mainland and commit herself fully to the world of Fine Art. She worked in a large bronze foundry in Portland, Oregon, as well as working privately on her own new body of work.
Misty returned to Prescott, Arizona in 2006, where she operates her own professional studio. She still joins me on monumental commissions as co-sculptor or assistant. Her own sculptural body of work continues to grow and develop and impress.
Her professional involvement was instrumental on the following monuments:
• Dr. Billy Graham 8 ft. H Crystal Cathedral, California
• Dr. Noman Vincent Peale 8 ft. H Fifth Avenue, New York
• Archbishop Fulton Sheen 8 ft. H Crystal Cathedral, California
• Dr. Robert Schuller 8 ft. H Crystal Cathedral, California
• Sacajawea 8.5 ft. H City of Sedona. Arizona
• Merlin 10 ft. H City of Sedona, Arizona
• Steve Biko Life-Size Amnesty International
• Moses 13 ft. H Crystal Cathedral, California
• Christ, Children, Loaves, Fishes 10 ft. H Crystal Cathedral, California
• Ascending Angel 17 ft. H Brazosport College, Texas
• St. Catherine of Sienna 7.5 ft. H Las Vegas, Nevada Adrian, Michigan
• Eagle in Flight, Anasazi Dwelling 14 ft. H City of Sedona, Arizona
• Founder of Burger King Life-Size Florida
• Kneeling Christ, 5 Children 11 ft. H Crystal Cathedral, California
• Vertical Mermaid 8 ft. H Florida, Indiana
• Tree of Life 8 ft. H Sedona, Arizona Synogogue
• Tibetan Knot of Eternity 13 ft. H Rancho Feliz, Agua Prieta, Mexico
• Poseidon Life-Size Dana point, California, Sedona, Arizona
• Dreams of Flight 3x Life-Size Pepsico Corp., New York
• Cynthia Parker Life-Size Los Angeles, California
Besides my commissioned work, Misty’s professional contributions to my private work are too numerous to list. She has also worked as adviser or assistant to a number of other professional sculptors.
Misty C. Soderberg is a uniquely gifted sculptor. I spent the first 18 years of my life in Central and South-East Asia, introducing Misty to an International awareness and world-view. At age 8, she worked for Amnesty International, collecting signatures to help free a political prisoner in Central America.
Her 24 years of experience working in her field, coupled with her deep empathy and sensitivity, bring an unusual depth to her work. Her style is a synergism of figurative work with contemporary elements, and her themes deal with the entire spectrum of the human experience and drama from mythology to fantasy to contemporary issues. Unlike those who develop into formula artists, she has the rare personal courage and integrity to continue evolving and growing as an artist throughout her life, and those who love her work will continue to view that evolution with great anticipation and sublime delight.
John M. Soderberg, Ph.