ARTISTRY: REFLECTING OUR HEARTS BACK TO US
WEOURSTORY with Catalina Bellizzi-Itiola (CATAPHANT)
I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Catalina Bellizzi-Itiola. I've always admired her work, and the heart which fuels her craft. She's an artist that has great insight on the world and creates from deep conviction and resolve. Here is some of her insights and a bit of her story!
WOS: So, tell us a bit about yourself:
CB: My name is Catalina Bellizzi-Itiola, I go by CATAPHANT. I was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and grew up in a couple different cities in Ohio before moving to Chicago when I was 19. I lived there for 10 years while I wrote and produced music and taught in the public schools. I now live in San Diego. I’m a child of immigrants. My mom is from Colombia and my dad is from Argentina. My childhood was very creative, but very difficult. I struggled with an anxiety disorder as several other family members wrestled with their own mental illness and it was often tense and full of strife. But creativity really saved me a lot of the time. My mom was awesome at fostering it by buying us endless art supplies/art classes and my dad introduced me to music and guitar playing at a young age.
Creativity really saved me a lot of the time
WOS: Do you recall when you realized you had an inclination to create and were an artist?
CB: I realized in pre-school that I had a talent for art, because around Christmas time we were all drawing ginger bread men and all my classmates were asking me to help them with theirs. I also had a moment in kindergarten where my very intimidating music teacher made me get up in front of the class and sing part of a song because I did it so well. At that time, though, I was extremely shy and it was borderline traumatic to be singled out, especially because that music teacher was such a fierce lady. But I appreciated that she took time out of her normally scheduled fierceness to tell me that I was good at singing, haha. When I got older and far more angst-ridden I decided to pursue visual art as a career just to piss my parents off (they wanted me to pick something that made more money), but eventually I realized there were way better reasons to be an artist.
WOS: Who has been an influential person in your life as an artist and can you tell us a bit about him/her?
CB: One of the most influential people in my life has to be my old friend Alex Roulette. I just met up with him in NYC about a week ago, after 7 years of not seeing each other. When I was an angsty high schooler he was a year older than me and significantly better at art than I was. I was so envious of him but wanted to learn from him so bad. We became close friends and he ended up teaching me how to paint. I ended up going to the same painting school as him (MICA in Baltimore) for my first year of school. I ended up transferring to Chicago but we still kept in touch. He’s a pure artist, extremely focused and unpretentious. His work is so incredible that it sells himself, you wont find a drop of airs in his demeanor, and that’s something I always respected and strived for. Alex’s paintings are just so breath taking that you can’t help but respect it. That really stands out to me because in the art and music world there’s hundreds of mediocre artists who talk the talk so well that they can almost convince you that they are good. I strive to not be that kind of artist.
WOS: What are you passionate about, or, why do you do what you do (create)?
CB: I’m passionate about telling my story, but finding others that relate. I come from 3 different cultures, but I never felt like I belonged to any of them. That fragmented isolation shapes what I strive for as an artist— to connect.
WOS: What does creativity mean to you and why is it important?
CB: Creativity to me means a couple different things. First, it’s a therapeutic means to handle this crappy world. Secondly, it’s building towards something- positive or negative, you can use creativity to take yourself/your community/ the world from point a to b.
It’s building towards something- positive or negative, you can use creativity to take yourself/your community/ the world from point A to B.
WOS: Do you believe inspiration is important to creativity and if so, what inspires you or gives you ideas?
CB: I think so, but inspiration is much more complex and deep than we give it credit for. It can easily turn into imitation or appropriation, like when we see someone doing something and we want what they have so we imitate them. I like to be inspired by others’ process but not their final outcome. I’m inspired by artists that excavated into their pasts to find freedom, or artists that boldly claim their existences, or artists that are fearless in seeking answers.
WOS: What are some struggles or challenges you have with creativity and the creative process?
CB: I struggle with trying to go in too many different directions at once, especially if I’m feeling very determined. I also struggle with the occasional bout of self doubt.
WOS: How do you overcome these challenges and creative blocks?
CB: Eventually they just go away, or I have to step away from whatever I’m doing to rest my mind. Ultimately I also just have to trust that everything is going to turn out for the best, no matter what it looks like.
I have to trust that everything is going to turn out for the best, no matter what it looks like.
WOS: How is your personality reflected in your work?
CB: My personality is pretty abrasive sometimes, and I use art making to calm some of those impulses. You can also see the way I structure my life in the way my paintings are structured. I like to find a place for everything, even the chaos.
WOS: What role does the artist have in society?
CB: The artist has the role of reflecting our hearts back to us. You can learn a lot about the ideas and motives of an era by looking at the art. Artists also can have the role of breaking out of those ideals and motives. I love art that resists oppressive structures, pushes and challenges the norms that we often get stuck inside of.
The artist has the role of reflecting our hearts back to us.
WOS: What’s your art-world pet peeve?
CB: My art world pet-peeve is those that come from a place of privilege carrying a sense of self importance. There’s many that have to struggle to get ahead, or get their message out. And there are others who were born with connections, with a shallow message, that somehow gets broadcasted to the world because of their positition. You could say that about a person in any field, though. I pretty much hate that anywhere in life.
WOS: What would you say to someone that believes they’re not “creative?”
CB: They are probably creative in some way, but it’s not healthy to force a singular image of what “creative” looks like. I used to teach in elementary schools, and I would always tell the kids that weren’t super “artsy” to not sweat it because if you’re bad at something it just means you’re really good at something else.
WOS: What creative endeavor or project are you currently engaged in?
CB: I’m currently applying to residencies so that I can work on a series of pieces where I map out my family’s journey to the US from South America, and my journey back to their respective countries. The pieces will be about my emotional, mental, spiritual development along the way.
WOS: How would you like this endeavor or project to contribute to the overall good of the human narrative?
CB: I would like for this project to speak to the heart of fellow first generation Americans whose stories and sense of identity are a little bit more fragmented and complicated. For a lot of us, we bridge two or three worlds but never completely dwell in any of them, there’s a lot of personal pilgrimages towards a more sold sense of self that we take. I’d like to tell a story that makes those in the same boat feel a little less alone.
I’d like to tell a story that makes those in the same boat feel a little less alone.
WOS: What advice would you give people seeking to live a more creative life?
CB: I would tell them to narrow down the purpose of creativity in their life. Is it a career choice? is it therapeutic? Is it necessary for your mental health? Do you want/need a platform for your creativity? If you want others to see it, is it needed in their lives? If so, what steps should you take to grow your craft? Man, there’s tons of things to think about.
WOS: Alright Catalina--thanks for sharing so much insight with us as well as a glimpse into your world. We look forward to your journeys and wish you the best with your current projects!
For more information on CATAPHANT and to stay connected to her work, check out her website cataphantmakes.com
You can also show her some love and follow her on her social media platforms @cataphant. She's someone def worth following!
Alright my friends, may we live today a story we'd like to tell tomorrow.