Capturing the Past with Modern Art: Meet Realistic Pop Nostalgia Artist Carmen Gonzalez

Carmen Gonzalez

By Al Gord

Carmen (Bourassa) Gonzalez was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta by her French Canadian parents. Edmonton is still her home where she lives with her husband who was born in Santiago, Chile and immigrated to Canada at the age of 12. Due to marrying into a Spanish family, she now knows three languages: English, French, and Spanish. Carmen and her husband have three grown children. A devoted wife, mother, sister, and daughter, family means everything to her.

She began drawing as a teenager from watching her mother, an artist, paint and draw. After high school, Carmen took a career path outside the art industry, working as a secretary. Wanting a change, she went to college for Engineer Design and Drafting and graduated in 1996 at the age of 31. She enjoyed being a draftsperson as she found engineering very interesting. Unfortunately, in 1998, a car accident ended that career. Her injury left her unable to work for many years. Eight years after the accident, Carmen went to a five week long program at a rehabilitation clinic. Upon completing rehab, she immediately began taking watercolour courses as part of her recovery therapy. It has been 16 years now and she has not stopped creating art.

Carmen never intended to become a full time artist, but what was initially a traumatic experience, incredibly pushed her towards pursuing an art career. The intense physical rehab program Carmen took for her serious injuries, changed her life by giving purpose back to her. Rehab taught her that she could accomplish anything if she had the desire, discipline, and determination. During the group therapy sessions, the patients had to set two long-term goals which were posted on a wall for all to see. Her goals were: 1) to become an artist and 2) to dance again. She has successfully achieved both of her goals. Carmen and her husband love to spend hours on the dance floor.

Amazingly the accident of 1998 was a catalyst for Carmen to achieve her childhood dream of becoming a professional artist. Her love of art is evident, she spends hours creating and painting in her studio. She has always felt captivated and fascinated by art, seeing it as an escape into a magical world. Her creative mind never rests, as she is continuously visualizing new creative projects. After years of wondering why she had difficulty doing certain things, it was finally confirmed that she had dyslexia, which plays a role in her art. Carmen’s use of patterned backgrounds is a result of her brain continuously communicating to her in shapes and colours. Essentially, that is her language. For Carmen, it is very difficult for her to leave the background one solid colour. In doing so her story, her art would be incomplete. Her patterned backgrounds celebrate or dramatize the story of her still life works, which sets the ambience or personality for each of her paintings.

Carmen’s art is fun, bold, colourful and uplifting. She paints realism however it is not traditional realism. Her realistic style has an element of illustration and pop art. Not wanting to focus on photorealism or hyperrealism, Carmen’s goal is to add personality and playfulness to her subject matter and to evoke uplifting memories. She loves the combination of Realism and Pattern Art, which she elegantly combines. She jokes that her artwork is a “two for one” (two paintings sold as one). She spends just as much time creating and painting her patterned backgrounds as she does painting her subject matter. The result is that her paintings are bold which entices the viewer’s senses: taste, smell, sound, sight, or touch. Her art is a visual feast, which is ultimately Carmen’s goal, to have the viewers “taste her work with their eyes”.

Carmen is intrigued with nostalgia perhaps because she loves learning about history. She feels taken back in time when she sees nostalgic objects, which is why she is so inspired, passionate, and excited about painting vintage subject matter. From telephones, clocks, toys and perfume bottles to other antique items, Carmen finds the craftsmanship of vintage objects beautiful. She is fascinated by the history and stories behind each antique – Who owned the item? Where was its home? How did it work? Carmen enjoys re-creating items from the past and capturing the spirit of life from the 1960s up to even the 1990s, times were so different to the tech world of today. She loves being transported back in time and experiencing how nostalgia can trigger emotional, social, and cultural elements.

Her exploration into past memories began with her Candy series which was inspired by her childhood as well as that of her children. Her candy series is about her childhood memories and how one’s inner child never grows up. Candy can lure one into enjoying their inner child again. Aside from the influence of her children, she is inspired by many artists, none bigger then Wayne Thiebaud. For Carmen, she is drawn to his legendary status, but his humility around his work. His work celebrated simple everyday things, but in a style that was fun with a sense of humour. Thiebaud’s art always makes people happy and smile and that has inspired Carmen to do the same – to make people smile through her art.

Carmen’s entire gallery can be seen on her website and her Instagram account.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.