Clelia Catalano (‘85), tells us stories of women, emotions, and above all, stories of herself through her art. A young Sicilian woman, Clelia may not be aware of how delicate and intense her artistic habits can be – during the day she creates scenographies and costumes for theatrical companies, at night she paints gothic tales of a blue hue.
Her life and art seem the beginning of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film (director of The Wonderful World of Amelie), but it is her reality and inspiration.
Stories are our dreams. And our dreams are our life. (Tim Burton)
The cinema and not surprisingly, Tim Burton, are important references for Catalano, who in her work Adult Fairy Tales develops a neo-gothic fairytale narrative close to that of the renowned director. Her imagination exalts contemporary feminine poetics of which she tells stories of passionate and shattered love, evenings with friends, and discriminated women as seen in Prisoner.
Like a fairytale, the blue hue of Abysses and Broken Hearts transforms reality into a dreamscape.
Blue is glory and power, a wave, a particle, a vibration, a resonance, a spirit, a passion, a memory, a vanity, a metaphor, a dream. Blue is a similitude. Blue, she, is like a woman. (Christopher Moore)
I believe that men, even in other jobs, are taken more seriously than women. In the end in almost all fields the majority who emerge are men. The world is still very masculine and also I believe that many women are still dependent on men. The fact that men make themselves worth almost twice as much as women in the arts is a little scary. I do not know what the reasons may be, if the gallery owners take the men more seriously, or the male artists, who as men are perhaps more familiar with the business world.
I’m reminded of the true story of the famous painter Margaret Keane. For ten years her husband pretended to be the artist of her paintings. She was shy and insecure, he was arrogant and outgoing. The result was that he made her art famous, because he knew how to deal with people, he knew how to sell. Even if she lived in a nightmare for ten years, when the truth emerged, she was already listed and famous. I wonder if she would have became so famous without him.
Public relations in this career are perhaps 80% of the work. If you do not know how to sell then you will never get anywhere. And I do not think it’s a quality that only men have, it depends on the character. For us women to perform public relations, it is increasingly more difficult than men, because often we are subjected to squalid sexual blackmail. And all of this is very irritating and annoying, so when a woman makes it, she can make it by managing to overcome more obstacles than a man.
I started to exhibit at the age of 23, I was still studying at the international school of comics, and was working in a very chic place in Florence. The girl who ran this place, Sara, put me on the exposure list. And so I made my first series of paintings – Adult Fairy Tales – that were almost all self-portraits. At the vernissage a friend of mine brought an American woman from New York, she immediately fell in love with a particular painting, this one.
And she told me the same evening that she would buy it and so it was. A month later she sent me a photo of the framed picture hanging in her home in New York. I was greatly satisfied for having sold my first picture overseas, in a city like New York! Fantastic. I stayed in touch with her.
But I have to say that my first show was very lucky, I sold four paintings in a week. This encouraged me a lot. Being appreciated in this work is essential. It gives you the push to do more and to keep going.
There are several works to which I am very fond of and that I would not sell, some of these I gave to my parents, so every time I go back home to Palermo I look at them and I’m happy. A work that is always with me is this:
I painted it one night that I could not sleep, I was not suffering for love, but I was particularly sad and at the same time euphoric, I wanted to do more, I could not sleep, when I closed my eyes I thought about what I could do to realize my dreams, how to show my works to the whole world … I felt alone, but also strong because I was able to transform my sadness into a painting. In this context there are, therefore, many conflicting emotions. And I like watching it. Sometimes I fixate on it for a long time.
My absolute favorite painters are Picasso and Chagall. I am very interested in their very different stories, the hard character of Picasso along with his impeccable technique. The dreamy world of Chagall, which unlike Picasso was not very lucky. In my opinion, only after reading the stories of the lives of the artists can one really become passionate about a work of art. For example, I admire Frida Kahlo very much. Only after having studied her story I was able to understand her works and to get excited about her, the same happened to me with Antonio Ligabue. But as a true artistic reference I took so much from Tim Burton, who in addition to making very beautiful drawings, has created his fantastic imagination. Being a cinema enthusiast, obviously a need emerged to tell stories, which I tried to do with my video-art Half Life and About a Fisherman.
Three things that I love and three that I hate. This question makes me smile a lot. So, I love dancing, I always dance, I dance at home while I cook, I dance while I’m painting, I dance alone, in the theater while the actors of the company I work with try the choreography of the shows I try to learn them too and dance with them. It’s something that amuses me and makes me feel good.I really love people who do not try to impress others at all costs, which are revealed over time, that surprise you as you know them. I love traveling, seeing new places, but also going back to places where I lived and finding the people I was good with. Traveling opens the mind. I was lucky enough to travel a lot since I was a child, my father is still traveling for work and when I was a child he took us with him. It was very important to see different places and cultures, somehow I’m sure my creativity has increased because of that. Things I hate. I will say something trivial, but it is the thing that I really hate. International politics. Current politics are destroying our world by making poor people poorer and the rich richer and richer, which triggers wars for economic interests. I am really sickened by those who govern us, who decide the fate of our world as if it were a game of poker. Compared to this, the other things that I hate are completely insignificant, I hate doing house cleaning, but I also hate mess and dirt … So over time I learned to clean and keep everything in order, even the space where work, if it’s not ordered I can not work.
And finally I hate myself, no, I’m joking. I do not hate anything anymore. The word hate is very strong and I do not like using it.
I can say that I love life, in pleasure and in pain.
BIOGRAPHY: Clelia Catalano was born in Palermo in 1985. After attaining her high school diploma she moved to London for two years, then to Florence to attend the illustration course at the International School of Comics. During this period she began to put her visions on canvas. The subjects of her paintings, suspended between dream and reality, capture a lot of attention, especially from other artists. In 2011, director Romeo Conte presented her as an artist of honor at the Salento Film Festival and Maurizio Lombardi, actor and director of the company of “I giovani del Teatro Vascello” of Rome, hired her as a costume set designer. In 2014 she was a finalist for the Basilio Cascella Prize (one of the most prestigious photography and painting awards in Italy since 1955), ranking 3rd for the critical jury and 2nd for the popular jury, obtaining a special mention as the first painter in history of the Prize to enter the first places. In 2015 she began shooting video-art with the stop-motion technique, in which the characters blend with her pictorial work creating a living picture. Half Life conceived and co-created with Davide Curaro, and About a Fisherman shot in 2017 in collaboration with Krzysztof Bulzacki Bogucki. Clelia now lives in Rome where she continues to paint and work with her theater company.