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Emerging artist Catherine Velarde (Cath Vel) was born in Panama in 1987 and her work is layered in more ways than one.   She uses recyclable materials, a vivid colour palette and encodes hidden dimensions in her ultra-violet light responsive murals.  Her work challenges the viewer to be present and look deeper in order to discover what lies beyond the surface.

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Cath Vel’s work is dynamic, with the added immersive duality of experiencing the “B side” of every piece through the use of black light.  Painting in fluorescents that can only be seen under specific lighting adds an unexpected element of surprise to her compositions.   When dissecting the structure of her art, it comes together as a puzzle of sorts – the colour, the layers, the texture, the black light, the message and the use of recyclable materials.  In this puzzle cardboard is the core element which forms a large part of her artistic discourse on her passion for helping the planet.

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Her personal philosophy is “one by one we can become many and by being many we can achieve marvellous things“.  She invites the viewer to look beyond each moment, to be present and to absorb every stroke of her artwork which is elaborated with patience, dedication and passion.    This young artist’s heart is plainly portrayed on each piece of wood, her bared thoughts shared in each visual expression.  For the viewer, Cath Vel’s work is an reminder to enjoy the moment and to try to discover what may be invisible in plain sight.

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“I was born in Panama in 1987. At a young age I showed a profound interest in becoming a caricature artist.  In those days I spent hours doodling in my notebooks.  Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries and learn from many different cultures; which, in retrospect, has helped to open my mind and awaken my curiosity in fields far beyond the artistic realm.

My first real interaction with recyclable materials also happened early on.  My family owned a snack manufacturing company and I spent a lot of time at the factory, which allowed me access to countless cardboard boxes, plastics and other materials.  This became a parallel world in which I was completely immersed, creating new objects from the materials that I found in my environment.

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Adolescence was the time when I was forced to make decisions – and as in many families,  opting for an artistic life was not received with approval.  I graduated from a school for the culinary arts and worked in that industry for almost ten years. In 2009 whilst living in Bocas del Toro, I rediscovered my artistic side and began painting again.  This brought back strong feelings that conjured my infant and adolescent years.  I formed an intention that to this day is still being expressed through the use and presence of recyclable materials in my art.

Within my art I find satisfaction, and I am able to communicate through the use of colour. I use fluorescent acrylic paint in most of my art, which offers a hidden side waiting to be discovered by the use of a black light.  I combine different textures with a touch of satirical humour and three-dimensionality.  I use of a wide array of techniques in my work and I continually explore and experiment.”


As an artist, my primary intention is to continue growing, developing and evolving my art without sacrificing my identity.  I also want to generate feelings and emotion within the people that appreciate my art, while raising awareness about the importance of recycling and repurposing materials.


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2013 – Divine Imperfection

Bocas del Toro, Bocas Art Walk. Bocas del Toro, Panama


2014 – Rustico

Bocas del Toro,

Neon Art Show.

Bocas del Toro, Panama


2015 – Basta de Acoso Callejero

Ciudad de Panamá,

Monstruos de Carton.

Ciudad de Panamá


2016 – Exxxpresiones y Contrastes

Bocas del Toro,

Galeria Fest4u.

Cuidad de Panama


2016 – Afropanafest

Ciudad de Panama


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