Catalina Estrada at the Iguapop Gallery

Catalina Estrada: Desarmando Suenos

Art exhibition at the Iguapop Gallery, Barcelona, Spain | April 30 – May 30, 2009

Decorative arts meets Latin Manga

The Catalina Estrada show, “Desarmando Suenos” at Iguapop Gallery gathered an enthusiastic crowd for a standing room only launch to her solo exhibition. While I don’t feel her art is pushing the boundaries of contemporary art concepts or techniques, it is no surprise that almost all of her work sold out that night. The messages are very accessible and all of the pieces are beautifully and decoratively presented so they can easily be incorporated into any home or office. Note to commercial artists: Make things household friendly and upbeat if you want to sell in economic downtimes, even if the subject matter covers children with knives and guns.

The collection expresses cultural themes from the artist’s Columbian roots, but the characters are presented in a Japanese pop art style, using techniques from her background in fashion, textiles, graphic design and pattern making. I like that she has found a way to meld stylistic elements of several different cultures and time periods and personalize them with her own traits. Many of the pieces look like painted tapestry meets folding Shoji screens with Manga influenced characters, but the color palette, environmental elements, animals, symbols, guns, machetes, plants and children are all stylistically Columbian.

Her work reflects a feminine treatment of brutal subjects by showing delicate expressions, nurturing points of view and decorative beauty. She combines cheerful colors, glitter, puffy paint, ceramics, needle point, stitching, quilting, and other textile based representations for bold impact, like the ruby red droplets of blood that glitter on the foreheads of children who “En mis sueños nunca sangro” (In my dreams, I never bleed.) Her representation of texture is almost Seurat-like with hair, fur, feathers, plants and other elements rendered through precise brush strokes, graphic lines, abstract patterns and geometric forms. Viewing the pieces from a small distance makes the paintings look polished, but a closer exploration reveals pencil lines and the underlying preparation techniques she used to produce them. I think her work would be elevated if she finished them as meticulously as she placed each and every dot and line.

Catalina Estrada has found her own voice for effectively communicating a very personal subject in a way that made me want to look, think and relate to her causes. I’ve seen other artists treat these same themes with bolder and more “in your face” mannerisms, portraying the depressing plight of children and the environment being crushed in the drug wars. Catalina has given these subjects an approachable setting and is able to connect to her audience in such a non-confrontational and alluring way, that you are drawn into the narrative, rather than repulsed by the underlying tragedy. The beauty of her work is so moving that it not only raises awareness, it also inspires allegiance to the plight of Columbia’s humanitarian causes.

Her work personifies beauty and inspiration, along with a message of hope: If the pure nature and innocence of the children can survive and thrive in the harsh environments, so can we.

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