Cuenca artist Catalina Carrasco makes her Modern Art Museum exhibition a family affair

May 16, 2023 | 3 comments

By Stephen Vargha

Cuenca’s Municipal Museum of Modern Art’s latest exhibit is truly a family affair.

Catalina Carrasco in front of four of her paintings at the Municipal Museum of Modern Art.

“It was originally only going to be my exhibition,” said the 55-year-old Cuenca native Catalina Carrasco. “But I invited others to be a part of it.”

“Alquimia” (Alchemy) is the name of the exhibit that runs through Friday, June 2. “It was originally ‘Mystical Alchemy,’ but I chose to include others in the exhibit,” said Carrasco.

The others include her father, Edgar Carrasco, her mother, Azucena Vintimilla, her 21-year-old son, Sebastián Arce, and her brother, Rafael Carrasco.

Various techniques are used by Carrasco to immerse human figures, preferably female, in atmospheres bordering on the wonderful or the strange.

“My father is a sculptor and an abstract painter. Everything he did inspired me as well as my mother,” said Carrasco. “My mother was a ballerina and a painter. Her paintings are kinetic suprematist (a modernist art movement that emerged in Russia in the early 20th century).”

Her son is a digital artist and drawer. “He is learning to become an artist,” said Carrasco. “This is his third exhibit. His first was when he was five years old.”

“Alquimia” is an international exhibit as she invited her friend, Fabrice Lievin, a photographer from Rieucazé, France. “I met him via Facebook,” said Carrasco. “His iceberg photos in Greenland were stunning.” Many of those photos from up north are on display at the museum.

“Espíritu – Cosmos Vivencia”: A dandelion on metal by Carrasco’s mother, Azucena Vintimilla, represents “Spirit – Cosmos Experience of Light.”

Mónica Malo, an Ecuadorian weaver and textile artist, is exhibiting her original designs that are based on the Andean world and on the ancestral traditions of the Cañarí, Puruhá, and Inca. She was a 2019 CIDAP award winner and has been weaving and creating a variety of textiles for more than three decades.

American C.A. Michel rounds out the exhibition. Carrasco loves Michel’s three-dimensional artwork that incorporates ballerina shoes.

Because of the Covid pandemic, the exhibition was delayed by three years. The international competition, “Con Voca Toria,” was sponsored by the Municipality of Cuenca. Over 300 artists applied. Carrasco was the winner and one of nine who was supposed to have their artwork displayed.

Out of nowhere, the exhibition was to happen. “They called me in February to say it would open in April,” said Carrasco. “I did not have enough paintings because of my last exhibit.” That is when she reached out to her family and friends.

Carrasco started young with her artwork. At 15 years of age, she was creating dresses for dolls as well as illustrations for children’s books. Right after graduating from high school, Carrasco was the illustrator for a Christmas book.

The exhibit, “Alchemy,” is open free to the public through June 2.

She went to the University of Azuay with a focus on graphic designing. The prestigious Stanford University offered her a three-year scholarship, but it was not enough time to get an undergraduate degree.

While in school, Carrasco studied restoration for Ecuadorian patrimonial (historical) sites. Her studies included working at the Remigio Crespo Toral Museum.

In 1997, Carrasco finished her college studies at the University of Cuenca, getting a degree in Visual Arts.

Artwork by Carrasco’s 21-year-old son, Sebastián Arce, is part of the exhibit. It includes “Libidin,” a digital print.

Rounding out her studies, Carrasco went to Buenos Aires, Argentina to study cinematography at Estudio Gabriela Chistik.

The Cuencano artist started professionally with the digital arts. “My first exhibition with the digital arts was 2003 at the Municipal Museum of Modern Art,” said Carrasco. “The local people were not receptive to digital arts as they thought it was an easy form of art.”

Her digital artwork had many layers. She would start with a digital image then apply layers of acrylic paint. Originally, Carrasco had used petroleum products, but the toxic fumes made her sick.

During this time, she had her son, Sebastián. He was born with not all of his bones in his head and part of one ear missing. “I told the doctor that my painting with petroleum products had done this,” said Carrasco.

The doctor told her it had nothing to do with paints as it was a genetic condition that only one in 50,000 people get.

Sebastián’s condition fueled Carrasco’s painting. “He made me a better and stronger artist. I started painting stronger and deeper,” said Carrasco. “He inspired me a lot. Sebastián told me he is like anyone else and that the problem is how others see him.”

“Lignum vitae” is a metalwork by Catalina Carrasco, representing the Europeant tree.

Just before the Covid pandemic, Carrasco conducted workshops in the United States. She ended up with Covid in California. Carrasco went to Hawaii for her recovery.

Because Ecuador was locked down, Carrasco could not fly home. Eventually, Ecuador gave her the green light, but she had to ask her parents for help with the airline ticket.

“Every day when I paint, I think of everyone affected by Covid,” said Carrasco. “Covid changed things.”

Right after arriving back in Cuenca, an American couple commissioned her to paint a mural on their hallway wall.  They wanted something that represented their new hometown, so she painted an 11-foot by eight-foot mural of El Centro, the Tomebamba River, and the Cajas mountains, with lots of hummingbirds flying about.

Her paintings appeal to many. “People say my paintings are realistic magical,” said Carrasco. “That means the backgrounds are realistic, but not with the scientific logic.”

Carrasco says she puts her heart into every painting and each creation is healthy for her.

Catalina Carrasco painting a mural on the wall of a home of the city of Cuenca.

“Artists can be very sensitive. My paintings are very personal,” said Carrasco. “When I am painting, it helps me heal from my problems.”

The museum said the collective work has a guiding thread “based on the power exerted by nature and mysticism in the physical and ethereal plane of artistic representations.”

The collective work is exhibited in the blue area of ​​the museum. The exhibition is based on the relationship between art and alchemy.

Alchemy originated in Ancient Greece and was associated with metal casting. During the Middle Ages, alchemy was referred to as “Ars Magna” (The Great Art) in Europe.

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, Catalina Carrasco was commissioned by an American couple to paint a large mural of Cuenca in their home.

“It has manifested throughout history in the search for the artistic representation of a mystic at the service of wisdom considered divine by the hermetics, spiritual philosophers who were guides, or artists themselves in search of codes, diagrams and forms,” said the museum.

After her exhibit in Cuenca, Carrasco is looking overseas for her next artwork presentation.

“I have been invited to go to New York City next year for an exhibition,” said Carrasco. “And I will be doing workshops there, too.”

But until then, there is still time to see her artwork here in Cuenca.

“Seeds of Transformation” by American C.A. Michel was done with ballerina shoes, pulp paper, iron oxide, and copper dust on wood.

___________________

“Alquimia” runs through June 2 at the Municipal Museum of Modern Art, Mariscal Sucre 15-27 y Coronel Talbot, Cuenca, 07-413-4900, info.mmamcuenca@gmail.com, Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Admission is free.

Catalina Carrasco, 099-214-9751, sunqumunay@gmail.com, http://www.catalinacarrasco.com

Photos by Stephen Vargha

Stephen Vargha’s book about Cuenca, “Una Nueva Vida – A New Life” is available at Amazon in digital and paperback formats. His blog, “Becoming Cuenca,” supplements his book with the latest information.

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