Five questions to Cat Tesla

Five questions to Cat Tesla

International artist Cat Tesla was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1963. Tesla lives and works in the Sarasota, Florida area. She grew up with a love for both art and science and obtained degrees in Biology and Graphic Design, along with a Master’s Degree in Human Genetics.How did you get into art?

26 years ago I entered a juried show in Atlanta, GA out of curiosity. I wondered if I could get in – if my artwork was good enough. To my surprise I got into the show, sold almost everything, won best in my category, and got invited to be represented by a gallery. The following week I went part-time in my day job, which was in genetics. I eventually traded genetics clinic for art studio. 

As for school I was offered a one-year scholarship for my first year of college in art, but I also had academic scholarships. I declined the art scholarship and chose the latter so I ended up with a master’s degree in human genetics. But I never stopped painting, drawing, and sculpting. I worked for 20 years in human genetics and my two careers overlapped. I have no regrets -- I feel like my art career began when I was ready for it and surprisingly the skills from my genetics career have helped me tremendously with the business of art.

How would you describe your style? What makes your work special?

My style is nature-based gestural abstraction. My work includes both nature based abstraction and purely non-objective works. The subjects I choose to paint are organic, either originating from Mother Nature, or inspired by her. I love building layers using painting and drawing, scraping back, then adding more, and pouring glossy translucent glazes over the surface. My artwork provides the viewer with a bold graphic element from a distance, but up close they’re rewarded with rich organic details and texture.How do you go about developing your work?

My process is inspired by the work and teachings of Franz Kline's concept of automatism. He essentially believed in first ‘pouring out’, then editing. I begin with an automatic drawing in graphite and wax crayon, then translucent layers are applied, followed by more mark making (drawing) & more paint layers. The resulting smaller paintings are windows looking outward, while the larger paintings are abstract nature-scapes you can walk right into.Who or what influences you?

Nature has always been my muse.

Make us curious. What are you planning to do next?

For years I’ve explored shapes as a way-finding tool in my art. This may stem from the scientific part of me – shapes are vessels, they contain things, they contain other shapes, marks, colors, they’re understood, they can live in groups or all on their own. More recently I’m exploring the mark as a way of expression, a way of loosening up, a way of being more raw and vulnerable. Each of us has a distinctive mark and I’d like to show more of mine. Like Terry Winters famously said:  “At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act . . . . . .What was to go on the canvas was not a picture, but an event.”

My work will be featured in Luxe magazine in the January/February 2024 issue. I will also have my work at the Art Palm Beach show January 24-28, 2024 and the Palm Beach Fair February 14-20, 2024.Learn more about the artist: