Peace, Love, and Dirt

Boulder-based artist Catherine Carilli found solace and healing in getting back to the earth with her new show, Hope For a New World.

"Tied-Up Heart" by Catherine Carilli, 2020

The year of isolation started early for Catherine Carilli. After breaking her hand in January, she was forced into quarantine before most of us. Spring brought hope with an opportunity to get back into the garden, get her hands dirty, and start growing something new.

In such a turbulent time, many of us have found emotional renewal in the practices of meditation and gardening. Catherine Carilli's new show, Hope For a New World, brings the garden to the gallery by blending Catherine's cultivated experience as an abstract painter with a raw and child-like approach to creating. Basic materials such as cement, dirt, and dried flowers become staples for a new form of abstraction symbolizing love and healing. Vibrant abstract paintings draw us into the grand beauty of natural landscapes. Cement and earth hearts take us back to the simple joy of playing with dirt.

Catherine Carilli shares the inspiration for her new show with us in an interview.

After breaking your hand in January, you were forced into an early quarantine, how did this experience influence your current body of work?

Breaking my hand at the end of January 2020 was devastating. Little did I know that my month-long sequester healing my hand in February would drag out through March and April because of the COVID quarantine. 

My injury limited what I could do creatively. I moved temporarily away from painting and took up small sculpture and installation. My injury and quarantine also inspired me to think about art that is healing, hopeful. This show is based on art that connects to earth, healing, and hope. 

What spirituality and earth-related movements have influenced you?

Earth Art-Feminism-Meditation 

During my isolation, I decided to make an installation for my upcoming show. It would be a canopy of flowers, lavender, yarrow, and baby’s breath. It is a symbol of protection, a place of breath, and sanctuary. 

At the same time, I was starting my spring garden of flowers and vegetables. Digging in the dirt felt right. Away from then virus and politics. It was then that I was inspired to dig forms into the earth, hearts, and cast small sculptures in the dirt. During this process, it dawned on me that I was connecting to the Earth Artists of the '70s, such as Robert Smithson and Ana Mendieta. The early '70s was also a time of radical social change. Very Fitting! Creating art directly relating to earth as in the Earth Mother harkens to feminism, another thread in this artwork.

"Renewal Installation" by Catherine Carilli, 2020
"Renewal Installation" by Catherine Carilli, 2020

Symbols are an important element of your work. What does the heart symbol represent in your current body of work?

Symbolism is extremely important to my art. Art is a window into the soul of another and symbols tell the story. The heart is a recurrent theme in my work. The heart is a universal symbol for our humanity. 

How do you hope that your current show will bring healing and peace to those who experience it?

While creating this exhibition, I turned to nature for inspiration as I often do. But this time the escape into nature was more poignant. I was not thinking about this at the time, it revealed itself to me later. I was constricted to my home and garden. I spent time feeling depressed. This lessened when I was mucking in the dirt, or contemplating mountain vistas. My large abstract paintings are inspired by various landscape settings.  The installation, Renewal, is composed of plants. The Earth Hearts are just that, sculpture made from the earth. It is all about returning to nature and finding your heart space during a pandemic and social injustice.  This idea is essential to this show and my current artwork.  

Hope For a New World closes August 23.

Where: NEXT Gallery, 6851 W. Colfax Ave, Unit B, Lakewood CO (In Pasternack’s Art Hub)

When: Fri 6 - 10 PM, Sat & Sun 12 - 5 PM

Safety Info: Patrons are expected to wear masks, maintain 6 ft. distances, and use provided hand sanitizer.

Check out Catherine's website at and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Detail from "Mountain Sunshine" by Catherine Carilli, 2020

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