Catalina Bellizzi welcomes NTCH to her studio.
Catalina Bellizzi welcomes NTCH to her studio.

Catalina Bellizzi (@cataphant on Instagram) is a visual artist and self-proclaimed goth from Chicago that now resides in San Diego. “I really like San Diego as my base; its a healthy place to be a person and an artist. The art scene is low-key but the community has a positive energy, genuine relationships and I have yet to meet a big ego.”

In fact, we came to know Catalina through her displayed pieces at North Park’s Coffee and Tea Collective – an example of how San Diego’s art scene, still in development, boasts a tight knit community.

Not a few minutes away from where we first discovered Catalina’s work, we had the opportunity to observe the artist in her space – a cozy studio on the 4th floor of her El Cajon building where her collages, oil paintings, earrings, and utility cork-board decorate her white walls.

Sporting long, wavy, dark hair, blue colored glasses and bold red lips, Catalina sits on an orange swivel chair surrounded by her past collages and upcoming paintings. She sits between two opposing desks – one displaying her jewelry materials, and the other displaying clippings soon to be used in her next series.

Each side of the studio is designated to a specific activity; in fact if you split the room down the middle, you can see that each opposing side could be its own studio.

“You know, sometimes, I’ll need a breather or a change of subject and I just swivel over to the other desk and work on something else. I’m a full-time freelance artist so I’ve got plenty of stuff to do – if it’s not finishing some orders for the Etsy shop then it’s a book cover, or a commissioned painting.”

A “jack of all trades,” Catalina’s list of accomplishments include being a musician (she has released two EPs), jewelry designer, painter, conceptual artist, and even a low-key interior designer. Just like her interests, Catalina herself is a mix: half Colombian, half Argentina, and all-around American. Growing up in the Midwest distanced her from her Latin American roots; she grew up feeling like an oddball and often felt out of place. “I am fully Latin but don’t look it, yet wasn’t white so growing up I wanted to look more like my heritage so I could feel connected to my cultural identity – I soon turned to art as an outlet and as an understanding of myself.”

 Earrings in process.
Earrings in process.

While her heritage, family, and Christian faith make up a big part of her artistic voice, Catalina, a hypochondriac with a vast medical vocabulary, is currently exploring the relationship between mental health and spirituality – how they clash, how they work together, and how to normalize the conversation of mental illness.

“There is so much taboo around the subject, especially within my family and I just wish someone had told me growing and explained that my anxiety wasn’t something to hide.”

I chimed in with my opinion that those taboos and all the mystery seem to be a thing within Latin families. “A hundred percent, and that is something that the American culture is a bit more open about; so my work is about the relationship between spirituality and understanding how the brain works – rationalizing what is going on and why we do the things we do.”

In fact, the series Nocturne (currently displayed and for sale at The Coffee & Tea Collective) explores that very concept – an ode to the night, a time where you can heal through dreams and prayer and the soul is able to re-adjust: a garden in the dark.

 Her collage work decorates the studio’s white walls.
Her collage work decorates the studio’s white walls.

“Art should be thought provoking but it can’t be so much that it’s not relatable. Just never forget who you are, and who you are speaking for.”

 A completed collage series.
A completed collage series.

There is advocacy in her work.

Still planning her next series, she will continue to explore the human brain, the psyche, neuroplasticity, human motivation, – all illustrated in an abstract and educational way.

“How do you align your beliefs to truths? In the new series, I hope to bridge the gap and inform people of what the mind can do.”

Speaking of the brain, Catalina says, “When I think of pink, I think of organs, of illness, of the body, of the delicate insides, of our brain!”

The delicate, the scary, and the unknown. Strength in darkness and growing from weakness. Of regeneration, of acceptance and forgiveness. Of self love.

“How can I be a friend to myself?” There is no clear answer or path and Catalina understands that every journey is different; but as an artist, success is about believing in yourself, seeking mentors, seeking help, continuing to grow in your interests and simply enduring.

Experienced, humble, and informed, what’s next for this rising artist?

“I am an artist but I’m not pretentious. I am conceptual but I also respect aesthetics. Art should be thought provoking but it can’t be so much that it’s not relatable. You can keep your artistic integrity and know how to market yourself. Just never forget who you are and who you are speaking for.”