Collected Wisdom, 2015. 16" x 12"
CATHERINE DeQUATTRO NOLIN's lush, opulent interiors are populated
with solitary women, domestic pets and wild animals. Her works convey a
sense of comfort and contentment in solitude, as well as the presense of
longing, fantasy, a desire for escape. Catherine is a self-taught
painter, who makes a living selling her work online. Her originals and prints are displayed in private collections throughout North America,
Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. Her paintings have
been featured in numerous design publications including Style Magazine
Australia, Artisticmoods, Surrounding Magazine and Sasee Magazine. Catherine lives in Andover, Massachussetts, where she works daily in a converted second floor bedroom with high ceilings and great light.
OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us about your beginnings as a painter. When did you first start painting?
Catherine DeQuattro Nolin: Well I have always been interested in the visual arts. A family friend noticed I had some talent when I was ten and enrolled me in a class at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. I was always interested in colors, and I thought about color a lot growing up. I did take a few classes in college, but it wasn't until having my own family that I began painting. I started hand painting t-shirts for fun and selling them to retail shops. As my work got more intricate and in demand, I decided to put my designs down on canvas, and from there I started apply to small local art shows. I had a lot of success at these shows in New England, but once I opened a shop on line everything changed. I liked the idea of not worrying about the weather at art shows and all the hard work involved setting up and the travel. I also had a store retail background as a clothing buyer and was very comfortable setting up shop on the internet.
The Art Teacher, 2017. Acrylics on wood. 12" x 16"
OPP: How did you go about teaching yourself?
CDN: Lots of trial and
error. I found all my favorite painters and practiced the way they
painted. I have always had a strong sense of composition and color.
My work has evolved over the years, and I am still learning something
new everyday. At one point, I felt I should switch to oils, but I have
come to love Golden acrylics and how they work. Today's acrylics are much
higher quality then the acrylics I first started working with.
I work six days a week painting about eight hours a day if possible. I am so grateful to do what I love and make a living at it. I can't wait for Mondays so I can get back into my studio. Perseverance, keeping going, never give up. . . this is what I do. I have a 23-year-old son with profound autism. Everything I ever needed to know about life, my son Samuel has taught me without ever speaking a word.
Off The Grid, 2015. acrylics on wood. 20" x 16"
OPP: When I first encountered your work, I immediately thought of Henri Rousseau’s “portrait landscapes.” Off The Grid (2015) seems to be a direct reference to The Dream (1910), for example. How is your work in conversation with his?
CDN: Many of my customers mention that my work reminds them of Rousseau’s. I am a huge fan of his. His simple way of seeing and painting is in step with how I paint as well. I am self taught, and I believe he was as well. Nature is the best teacher, of course—I love creating lush botanicals and my own version of flowers.
OPP: What other painters influence you and how?
CDN: As a teenager and was introduced to the work of Thomas Mcknight, and that's when I became inspired to paint interior scenes. Obviously, Matisse was a huge influence as well as Vilhelm Hammershoi and the Italian Renaissance.
A Room Of One's Own, 2017. acrylics on wood. 16" x 20"
OPP: There seems to be an even mix of women happily inhabiting their surroundings—as in Interior With Gloria (2017) and Serious Moonlight (2016)—and women turned away from the viewer, looking through windows or exiting the space. I’m thinking of The Moon Will See You Now (2017), Chasing Venus (2016) and Collected Wisdom (2015). I read these as about longing, fantasy, a desire for escape. Your thoughts?
CDN: Yes, you are correct in that I am conveying escape and longing in some of those pieces you've mentioned. Raising my son has been an unbelievably bitter sweet life. I feel that it comes through in my work in subtle ways, but I like the idea of an open narrative, letting the viewer decide. Painting is something I can control. Usually, I decide the outcome. It helps me cope.
Where Are you Going?, 2016. Acrylics on wood. 12" x 16"
OPP: Your paintings are populated with both pets (bunnies, cats and dogs) and wild animals (polar bears, tigers, owls and leopards, to name a few). Are these animals allegorical or literal? Are the "wild" animals also domesticated?
CDN: Yes, woodland creatures would live in my house if possible. Like many artists, I have a deep love and respect for nature and animals and like to paint them in unlikely settings. I love the idea of pairing animals in interiors. I paint a lot of white doves, obviously a sign of peace, and swallows for hope and safety. Gold finches represent the resurrection, which is why they are depicted in renaissance art. Cats, lions, tigers—courage and fearlessness.
Letting Go, 2016. acrylics on wood. 18" x 24"
OPP: I notice a lot of recurring “portals” to other spaces
within your interiors. They take the form of open windows, doorways and
arches that reveal the outdoors, framed portraits, mirrors and famous
paintings, as well as dressing screens painted with landscapes. How do
these frames within the frame function in your work?
CDN: Portals, doorways and windows for me are symbols of hope, change and possibility. Again, having a son with special needs has greatly influenced my work in so many ways. Painting has been such a necessary therapy, however cliche that may sound. When I walk into my studio, I leave my worries at the door. Time seems to stand still, and I am taken to a place of peace but where I am in control. I am so grateful for that. The idea of letting go is also a reoccurring theme.
The Garden Rules, 2016. acrylics on wood. 18" x 24"
OPP: What role does opulence play in your work?
CDN: My work is very conducive to opulence! The objects and home furnishing in a lot of my paintings stem from my childhood: chandeliers, French Provincial furniture, Chinoiserie, pianos, mirrors and statues. As a child, I was always interested in colors and fabric. I have vivid memories of when my parents redecorated our living room. I was maybe 10-years-old, but I was more interested in the swatches and paint chips they were choosing from than in playing outside in my neighborhood! Our house was small, but it was a little palace in my mind. I had forgotten about all that. Thanks for such interesting questions that made me think back.
OPP: And now a practical question. How do you go about selling your work? Any tips for younger artists without gallery representation?
CDN: I started with an Etsy shop in 2009. It took time to develop a following but now Etsy is so huge I believe it's a lot harder to get noticed. Art shows were a natural first step as well. I never liked or was comfortable with the gallery route. I suppose because I was self-taught, I was a bit intimated by that scene. Things have changed so much with the internet and art that with hard work and perseverance anything is possible.
CDN: I use to do a lot of them, but yes, they kept me from doing what I
really wanted to do. But depending on my client, they could also be very
exciting. Over the past five years I have developed a wonderful following
of clients that are so awesome and supportive. I still do some
commissions that interest me.
Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular will open in August 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.