Cat de Leon's Solo Show @ Gallery 119 in Lowell. The Word - charcoal and pastel - Jack delivering the scroll unto heaven.
Cat de Leon's Solo Show @ Gallery 119 in Lowell. The Word - charcoal and pastel - Jack delivering the scroll unto heaven.

Interview: Cat de Leon On Muse, Myth And Collaboration – From David Amram To Martin Atkins


Detail of ‘The Power of the Press’. It is a series of digital photos, aged by hand, close ups of the detail of the windowsills of the Lynn Item building…a newspaper in operation on the North shore of greater Boston in this building since the 1880s. I wrote the text from the 1st amendment by hand on the photos. the pictures are mounted on distressed metal. Statement on the crumbling of compromising of the freedom of the press.

Detail of ‘Genesis Too’ A collage that focuses on the alliance between Jack Kerouac and Lucien Carr. An answer to the film, Kill Your Darlings. My favorite collage out of the series of 6 in Up You Go Little Smoke on view now at Gallery 119.

Detail from an 8 paneled window, in acrylic. “Gospels” Eight panels – four down on the left depict Kerouac writing, four down on the right, each of his prominent NYC subjects; Lucien Carr, Bill Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso. Depicted: Kerouac, writing in heaven.

Cat de Leon is a life long student of myth and archetype.

Within that context she has explored Greek Mythology in her IKONS series some of which has shown in Europe, and the Beats in her solo show at Gallery 119 – Up You Go, Little Smoke – The Holy Hipness Of Jack Kerouac.

'Persephone In The Underworld'. Hand distressed digital photo from the IKON series depicts Persephone tempting a shade (spirit) with a pomegranate in the underworld. The photo  was taken in Olsanske Hrbitovy - a cemetery in Prague, CZ, and has handwritten script in ancient Greek. Mounted on 1/2" birch wood. It is a perfect example of a happy accident - considered by most to be the masterpiece of the series.
‘Persephone In The Underworld’. Hand distressed digital photo from the IKON series depicts Persephone tempting a shade (spirit) with a pomegranate in the underworld. The photo was taken in Olsanske Hrbitovy – a cemetery in Prague, CZ, and has handwritten script in ancient Greek. Mounted on 1/2″ birch wood. It is a perfect example of a happy accident – considered by most to be the masterpiece of the series.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: What got you interested in art Have you taken any art classes?
The way my mom used to tell it, she put a pencil in my hand from the time I was able to hold one. There was a time in my early childhood when things weren’t going very well for my parents money wise and they couldn’t afford many toys, and I was easily bored, anyway. My mom would give me a pencil and a piece of paper and show me how to draw simple things. That and listening to music would keep me occupied for hours. She really was quite clever as well as creative and talented. As far as art classes are concerned, outside of Jr. High and High school, no. I have never had any formal training. In some ways I do regret this, as I am sure I would be able to do some things in half the time it takes me to do them now. However, I am really glad that I am coming from a very raw and almost isolated place. If I can keep my head in the right space and not fall prey to insecurities, it allows me to keep things fresh and never fear that I am awash in ‘rules’ or someone else’s technique or overt influence.

What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece?
Understanding that no masterpiece is ever created with the set purpose of creating a masterpiece. It is channeled. Blinded by inspiration and taken by the spirit. The piece you go into with no expectations, or believing it is just an experiment is the most likely to be considered your masterpiece. Also most masterpieces seem to born from ‘happy accidents’.
What is your preferred medium and why?
That’s kind of a tricky question. Honestly, it really depends upon the project I am working on at the time. I also feel like it’s evolving/changing constantly, rapidly. I have always felt that whatever I do, my hands need to be really IN it, covered in the medium. So historically charcoal would have been my answer because I have tactile contact. Even when I do photography, my favorite part is when I age the photos by hand… creating the cracks, rubbing the oil paint into the cracks, and so on. Collage too is sensually gratifying – cutting, pasting, tearing, moving things about. So while working on this Kerouac project, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed painting. I always told people I was not a painter/couldn’t paint. It was certainly something that was blocking me, but I have been really pleased with the work, and feel like I’ve overcome a hurdle working with acrylics on old windows.
Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?
I do. My website is being revamped to include the new work for the Kerouac show, and it should be live by 11/19. Go to http://www.catdeleon.com
Do you have a favorite artist?
If yes, what draws you to that person’s work?
Another tricky question. I really don’t. I’m inspired by all kinds of different artists in different medium for different reasons. Vermeer, Titian, Rossetti, Klimt, Dali, ManRay, Warhol, Bacon, Pollock, Rivers, Hoch, Hockney. I think what I love most is work from antiquity, coptic encaustic icons for example. Vase paintings, Greek mosaic and sculpture. These things inspire me greatly. Modern artists do it for me as far as concept and the masters are just amazing in use of light, form, and color. More than anything, I think, I am looking for the soul in something…a piece of the artist’s and his/her interpretation of the subject’s.
Can you remember one of the first things you drew/sculpted/painted/photographed etc.? What makes it memorable?
Well, that’s another story about my childhood. I had to be about 8 years old or so. I was bored and I wanted to paint, but I had run out of paper. I was sitting in the front hallway where my grandmother kept all her plants because of the sunlight. She had this plastic tray she set her pots on. I took it and I painted a picture of the suffering Christ on it…crown of thorns, tears of blood and all (morbid, or close to holiday time…I have no idea why I was inspired to do this). I even wrote a caption on it about his martyrdom. We weren’t a particularly heavily practicing religious family, so I really can’t explain why I had been so taken with this image. Anyway, I freaked myself out thinking I would get in trouble for ‘ruining’ my grandmother’s plant tray, and I hid it. A couple of days later, at dinner, my grandmother said to my mother in Greek, ‘Do you want to see what your daughter did?’ and she pulled out the tray. I froze. I really thought I was going to get smacked, but they were both so proud and in awe of what I had done. I remember my grandmother pointing out details of it as though she were in disbelief. I guess this is memorable because it really is so relevant to where I am now, painting icons of a martyred Kerouac on found old windows, recurring themes of spiritual sacrifice, and the search for and depiction of the soul. I think this is even true of the study I am doing of crumbling old buildings, but focusing on the embellishments the 19th century architects and designers used – photographing that and considering it an indication of the soul of the past.
This being primarily an author’s blog, I would like to ask if you’ve ever designed any artwork for an author (cover image, maps, interior art – including font styles – etc.)?
If not, would this be something you’d be interested in doing?
I have. I was asked to do a portrait of Dale Carnegie for Martin Atkins’ new book. Also, I have done image consulting and promotional photos for bands. I am always interested in collaboration, and being commissioned. I love helping people with their vision.
Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?

It’s all about passion. I go with what I am passionate about, or passionately attracted to and build a concept around it.

I call myself a conceptual artist. I don’t know if that’s accurate, but I feel like that’s what I do. At my last opening, someone said that they wished they had an ‘obsession’ as intense as mine. I was a bit offended but I think it’s a matter of semantics. Only a person with in-depth passion can truly know the difference between a passion and an obsession. As I said, I am searching for the soul in all things that I do. If I can isolate that through examining Kerouac or ancient myth and gods, or architectural embellishments, then perhaps I can bring light and life into another’s spirit and communicate that we are all souls, spirit, driving around in this meat car we call a body.
Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone and discovered a whole new genre of art? How did it turn out?
Well, I have done this/do this all the time; writing, acting, singing, playing guitar. I think singing was most uncomfortable for me, but it’s turned out ok when I have had to do it. Ironic in that I love music so much…I am most critical of myself in that genre. I don’t feel I am good enough, although other people like my stuff.
Do you have any other interesting hobbies or maybe a fun story about an experience involving your artwork?
I don’t know what ‘hobby’ means. I guess I am a sick thing because everything I do, I do as though my life depends upon it. I do have a funny story regarding my artwork, actually I have loads, but I will tell the most recent. If you believe in ghosts, it will resonate. If not, then you can think I’m just another flake artist/crackpot. Ok. So I was struggling to do a portrait of Lucien Carr, Kerouac’s best friend who was the TRUE avatar of the Beat Generation. There are no really good photographs of him to be found in books or online. Most images are small and grainy snapshots from the 1940s and 50s. I was really frustrated and unhappy with the portraits I had done, whether they were charcoal, pen and ink or colored pencil. It was important to have this portrait as the centerpiece to a work called Old Lucien Midnight which featured the sacred heart and text from the Kerouac poem. Three pieces were done, and three pieces, I tore off the collage. So One day I came into my studio after teaching a class. I was armed with a cup of coffee and resolve to do several hours of work that day, but needed to chill with some music and coffee first, I turned on my iPod, and was looking around the room at all my work I had finished and when I saw Old LucienMidnight, I thought, well, I have so much work, maybe I will just omit this piece from the show. Just then, my iPod shut down. I thought…wha…??? It was fully charged. I fiddled with it a bit, and when it turned on, a series of songs played in succession that were either written about by Kerouac in context to Lucien, like the Mills Brothers’ You Only Hurt The One You Love, or songs that had lyrics that could be associated with his past predicaments, like I Confess, by the Beat for example. I looked at the piece I was considering abandoning, said out loud, OK, I get it, picked up a set of pastels and did a wonderful portrait of him, which I stuck with, and now appears in the exhibit.

 

 

Cat de Leon's Solo Show @ Gallery 119 in Lowell. The Word - charcoal and pastel - Jack delivering the scroll unto heaven.
From Cat de Leon’s Solo Show @ Gallery 119 in Lowell about Jack Kerouac. This image: The Word – charcoal and pastel – Jack delivering the scroll unto heaven.

Reach Cat de Leon for collaborative art projects, or to see her work in person :catdeleon59@hotmail.com. Make arrangements to visit the artist in her studio at LynnArts! Where there’s wine, comfy chairs, and tunes. View more online at http://catdeleon.com & http://www.119gallery.org/

About Jessica Fisher-Willson

Jessica Fisher-Willson
Jes (Arts & Independent Music Editor) is a nerd girl who needs constant validation. To this end she invented White Light Tarot TM, a reiki-tarot deck that validates one's concerns and helps balance one's energy. It is available as an online app, a download for free, or as a book and tarot deck available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and White Light Tarot's website, as well as finer independent New Age purveyors. Mostly she is writing fiction as fast as she can and learning to be socially media-phoric. http://jessicafisherwillson.com/
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