From the moment a customer enters the Gallery@57, Catalina Moreno’s acrylic and watercolor artwork on the wall is one of the first sights they are greeted with. As one of the artists that had been with The Gallery@57 when it initially opened as a pop-up store on Main Street, Catalina Moreno has many of her creations displayed in various areas of the shop.
Catalina’s passion for the arts started when she was a young child in her native country, Colombia. Inspired by the color and texture of the land and people, as well as memories of a childhood spent in the mountains of Colombia, she would eventually go on to dedicate several creations to her experiences in Colombia.
Catalina’s work includes a variety of media such as oil, acrylics, color pencil, and glass work. Her jewelry is characterized by color, uniqueness, and simplicity. Aside from The Gallery@57, her work has been shown in local artistic places in Melrose and the Boston Area.
She came to the United States in 1984, where she attended high school in Boston and graduated as valedictorian of her class. She attended Northeastern University and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After a brief technical career in industry, she switched to teaching for the Boston Public Schools, where she has worked for more than twenty-eight years as a math teacher. Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in bilingual studies at UMass Boston. Catalina’s passion for the arts and teaching guides her to be creative and to teach young adults the principles of visual arts. Currently, Catalina lives in Melrose with her husband and two children, Alejandro and Leonardo.
Interview with Catalina Moreno
Recently, The Gallery@57 was thrilled to have student worker Michelle Dang interview Catalina Moreno virtually as she conducted her summer travels in South America.
I understand that you began your venture into art as a painter. When did you first develop an interest in art? How did this interest prompt you to take up painting?
My venture into art started as long as I remember in Colombia. I was always an exceptional art student in Bogotá. I am always drawn to painting because I love the fluidity and color combinations that I can create on paper. So, my interest really started as a child in my art classes. I was lucky to have amazing teachers that were able to always push me to the next art level.
What drew you to watercolor in particular for your early stages of painting?
I love to explore different types of painting and media. I have done oil before and acrylics. I feel watercolor composition is fascinating. As a drop of water is added to the paint, it spreads, making magical figures within the painting.
Do you have a specific technique that you use when making watercolor paintings? What would you advise to those who want to start painting with watercolor?
I first draw a rough drawing on the paper with pencil, making only the outer borders of my figure. I always make sure I secure the paper to the table with tape so that the paper doesn’t bend from the water. I start from light to dark, making shades as I go. I prefer to use good quality watercolor cold press paper that has a slight textured surface. This paper is good for large areas and details. High quality watercolor paint is a must for beginners. I end my watercolor paintings with a little bit of ink for the last details.
Other than watercolor, I’ve also seen your mosaic jewelry and resin-filled jewelry in the shop. How did you get into jewelry making, and what is the process?
I love to explore new media and techniques. I have taken mosaic classes. I love adorning myself with jewelry. I started putting little pieces of glass in bezels to create exciting and colorful earrings. Many of the friends complimented my jewelry, so I started creating more pieces such as pendants, rings, and earrings. Cutting the glass into tiny pieces is difficult at times, and it takes a lot of patience to glue them into place the way you want. Sometimes, I grout the glass into place or I put resin to seal the process.
What was your favorite type of jewelry to create?
I love making earrings. I enjoy looking for the right combination of colors and composition of each piece. All pieces are unique and cannot be reproduced exactly the same.
Out of all your artwork, what stood out to me were the decoupaged seashells at the Gallery. I especially love the ones with painted images inside. I find them fascinating in how they reveal a moment in time. Like a seashell is only the remnant of a snail, these painted pictures are fragments of the past. How did you create these decoupaged seashells? Why did you choose the images you did, and what motivated you to pick up decoupaging?
As I mentioned before, I love mixing and trying new techniques. Out of a simple piece of nature, something useful can be done. These seashells became little pieces of art to, perhaps, put jewelry or anything at all. I chose images that I thought were beautiful from old newspapers or magazines, again with the idea of recycling.
Which medium is the easiest for you to use? Which is the hardest?
The easiest medium for me to use is watercolor. The hardest is definitely oil paints.
Do you have a prefered medium or art form that you like to use?
I love painting from my imagination. Most of my paintings are created from my mind, from experiences or places I have been.
Are there any mediums that you haven’t tried yet but want to and are planning to in the future?
I would like to learn about fibers and continue learning to work on the pottery wheel.
What has inspired you when creating your previous art? What inspires you nowadays?
My first pieces of paintings were inspired by a region of Colombia called Boyacá. I used to go there for vacations, and some relatives are from that region. Those were paintings that depicted the greenery of the mountains. The series is called “The colors of my soul.” What inspires me lately, it’s my travels around the USA, specifically New England.
Are there any artists who have positively influenced your work?
I really enjoy seeing and learning about Frida Kahlo and her influences in the art.
Let’s talk a bit about The Gallery@57. How did you discover The Gallery@57, and how did you become involved with it?
The Gallery@57 has been a positive experience in my artistic life. Meeting other artists has given me another perspective of different types of art and medium. One of my friends asked me to show my work since the Gallery opened many years ago for a holiday pop-up event. Since then, the Gallery@57 has opened its doors to me and my art.
What do you want people to take away from your art?
My art is unique and affordable; fun and colorful. The arts and, specifically, visual representation should be an important part of people’s education. Creativity is not “born,” but rather developed.