A Spotlight on Artist Monica Curiel

Inspired by the possibility of blurring the lines between painting and sculpture, Monica Curiel explores materiality and movement through her work.

Monica Curiel | Art Spotlight | May 2022 | Denver Life Magazine
Photo by Paul Miller.

Monica Curiel refers to herself as a designer, but after learning her story, the word “visionary” comes to mind. With interior designers, seasoned and new art collectors and homeowners as her clients, she continues to perfect her craft for the coveted upscale crowd. During her undergraduate studies, Curiel took courses in interior architecture, fashion design and fine arts—graduating in 2021 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Kansas. From there, her diverse work has been on display in Denver and Chicago.

Tell us more about what you do.
“My favorite material is plaster, which I love because you can do so much with it and it also has personal significance for me as I grew up working alongside my parents, who were day laborers. I work on the floor, often using a trowel, sweeping layers of plaster across wooden panels intuitively. I mimic the grouting techniques that I learned at an early age while assisting my father at work. Each piece is a meditation on where I come from, rooted in my desire to both celebrate and elevate my heritage as a Mexican-American woman.”

How did you start in the art world?
“As a child, I always loved to draw and paint. I’ve also entered several art competitions where I’d submit my creations. During the last two semesters of my Bachelors of Fine Arts, I took formal painting courses—one of which was an independent study where I worked through abstraction.”

Where do you get your artistic inspiration?
“Like many creators, my influence and inspiration really comes from so many facets such as current events, history, architecture, fashion, interiors and nature. But at its core, my inspiration for doing the kind of art that I do, though contemporary in nature, is a celebration of my Mexican heritage and every sacrifice made in pursuit of a better life. I aim to elevate those who come from similar backgrounds as myself, first-generation Americans with humble backgrounds. I want to show Latina/x women that it’s possible to be a successful artist no matter one’s background.”

What is your creative process?
“My work stems from emotion. My latest collection, Herencia, which was exhibited in March at Meno Home Studios [in Denver] was inspired by my childhood. I wanted to use plaster in a way that would evoke more delicate materials like cloth or paper. As I was working, I began seeing traces of my childhood memories in the billowing forms: hanging clothes to dry in the back of my grandmother’s house after bathing in the river, the dresses I sewed for my dolls, the cobija (blanket) that brought me so much comfort. These types of memories often make their way into my work.”

What are your plans for the future?
“I want to continuously grow through my process in painting but I am also starting to experiment with designing and building functional objects, such as lamps. I have a fascination for curating interior spaces, pairing textures together, choosing the right lighting fixture and bringing warmth to a space with textiles. In the future, I see my work embracing sculpture more and more. I also work really quickly and have created close to 400 pieces in the last year! I’m hoping to partner with a local gallery.”