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Cat Balco
Paper Star



Cat Balco is a Connecticut-based artist, writer, and educator who has shown her paintings, murals, and collaborative projects widely; recent and upcoming venues include Rick Wester Fine Art (New York City), Real Art Ways (Hartford, CT), Artspace (New Haven, CT), and the University Gallery (Sacramento, CA). Her essays and art criticism have been published in Art New England. She has served as a visiting artist at institutions including the Maine College of Art, Swarthmore College, Pratt Institute at the Munson Williams Proctor School of Art, and Yale University. Balco has received residencies and awards from organizations including the CT Commission on the Arts, The Weir Farm Trust, and the Albers Foundation. In addition, she has been the recipient of several University of Hartford awards related to her teaching; these include an Engaged Learning Fellowship; the Belle Ribicoff Junior Faculty Award; and 2012 Innovations in Teaching Award. Balco received a B.A. and an M.F.A. from Yale University and is an Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Hartford. Cat Balco Statement I make square paintings of central, radial forms. The most recent are large, 6’ x 6’ – human-sized – though I work in a range of scales. The paintings are painted casually, almost sloppily, with wide house painting brushes. Their wet paint drips and splatters as it is roughly layered. Loosely articulated drop shadows suggest that their radial structures might occupy shallow, brightly lit, three-dimensional space. Sometimes the paintings themselves appear to be light sources. I always work with a central form. Often my motifs resemble stars or suns, though scale is ambiguous and forms often look more mechanical than natural. I prefer this central, sun-like form, because it is such an obvious, primeval image. Suns and stars are very easy to draw, are among the first subjects of children’s drawings, and are near universal symbols. Suns/stars can be casual, like doodles we might draw on the edge of a paper in a meeting, or highly significant, like carvings of the Egyptian Sun God Ra. Perhaps, as we learn in Genesis: “in the beginning, there was light.” If so, the sun/star is a very good place to begin. Symbols operate by holding space for viewers’ projections, and I especially appreciate the wide openness of the sun/star motif, which holds many meanings - both unique and shared – for many people. In the words of St. Augustine, the form feels to me to be both “so ancient, and so new.” As a formal project, making a painting with a radial, central form requires a constant balancing, through color and form, of centripetal and centrifugal forces. This dance – between gathering to an inner center and expanding/diffusing to the outer space – mirrors the shifting dynamic between spiritual and material energies. I try to strike a potent balance, so that each painting feels explosive, filled with potential energy, yet remains held together through a strong adherence to the inner center. I often pick up and rotate my paintings while working on them. Like Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, my own body becomes a star mirroring their motif. Drips sometimes form in different directions, suggesting rotation, perhaps of a propeller, a water wheel, or something more carnivalesque, like a Ferris Wheel. The paintings also conjure darker wheel-like forms, like Catherine Wheels, which were named for my namesake St. Catherine and used to break the bodies of medieval convicts. I often feel emotional pain – rarely specific, typically without definable cause – when I work, and I think of rotation as healing, for, as I learned during the births of my two children, it is easier to bear pain while moving than while still. For me, the paintings resemble radial engines of the sort that were manufactured in Connecticut, home to my working class ancestors for three generations, to power the fighter jets of World War II. They look like the mechanical weaving looms that my grandmother worked on, leaving her infant brother in a box until her shift ended and she could care for him again. And they look like the wheels of the railroads financed by Brown Brothers & Harriman, the Wall Street Firm that employed my father as an energy analyst beginning in the early 1970’s. My family crossed, then, though tentatively and not definitively, from the making to the owning class, and I have often wrestled, uncomfortably, with this divided history within myself. On one level, these paintings are about my ancestors, particularly the women, who lived through their repetitive, physical labor, all while bearing and raising children so that I, ultimately, could make my paintings. I turn the difficult feelings until their specificity dissipates. In its place I’m left with an awareness of the preciousness, the power, and the vulnerability of life. In many ways this is a religious feeling, or a spiritual feeling, and my paintings, which resemble the rose windows of cathedrals, are also about God.


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    H 18 in. x W 18 in.

    H 45.72 cm x W 45.72 cm

  • Gallery location
    New Haven, CT
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