With stained hands, brushes on the floor and walls saturated with paint, fine arts student Carolina Romo works tirelessly in the studio to complete her latest piece.
As a self-taught painter and muralist, social issues are Romo’s muse. Romo draws inspiration from politics, civil rights and mental health advocacy while experimenting with his favorite medium: acrylic paints.
Based in Chicago but originally from Milwaukee, Romo said she started painting in first grade after finding a book about Frida Kahlo at her school’s book fair. Now she works through her art to elevate the importance of topics that people may not be comfortable with at first.
“I had no idea who Frida Kahlo was before, so after reading this picture book, it just inspired me to make art,” Romo said. “I saw the artwork and then I started researching and learning more about her, so I thought that was exciting…and I thought I’d like it too.”
For Romo, creating art has been a therapeutic experience and has provided a place of comfort through which she can channel her experiences and emotions – which also happen to be her biggest influences alongside the incorporation of objects. foreigners and the integration of societal issues into his work.
Her piece ‘Kids in Cages’ references migrant children detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2019. Another highlights the dark side of the fashion industry in ‘Work Labor’, a drawing by three-part feature encouraging viewers to wonder who exactly makes their clothes. Romo said she wants her audience to think critically about these issues that happen every day, without imposing personal ideas on them.
Back home, Romo worked on a multitude of murals in Milwaukee, valuing the community and its great role in her art. One of his illustrated murals for the Garden Homes neighborhood reflects his history, the Great Migration, redlining, the industrial work going on at the time, and faith. Her other mural, “Tejiendo Raices,” was a project she participated in with muralist Isabel Castro with the goal of cultivating a safe, creative, and inclusive space through the arts to empower communities of color in the city. Romo said she is currently working on a mural for her grandfather’s bakery.
“I brought him the idea of what I was going to do, and I even showed him my portfolio. … He liked the idea and he said it was cool,” Romo said. “I like [community]. I want to be part of it as much as possible and I like talking to people. I think it just helps people to be together.
Thanks to Columbia, she had the opportunity to intern at the NYCH Art Gallery and see her work exhibited at the POROUS Salon Exhibit. Romo said these opportunities taught him the business and marketing side of art while having a community with which to express his creativity. Outside of school, Romo’s work has been featured at Lolita’s Bodega event at Navy Pier and Art & Edibles at the Pilsen Art House.
Throughout her years at Columbia, her artistic dreams were further heightened by the outlet provided by college, and Romo said that in the future she plans to fully immerse herself in her work by opening her own small company within the community to share their art and painting tips.
Through his background in the art field, Romo learned the value of uplifting artists, shopping small, and supporting others within the community.
“It’s just important that [people] help each other,” Romo said. “I think people have to think about other people, even if they don’t know them like that. It shows how kind you can be.
Those interested in following Romo or supporting her work can follow her on Instagram and Redbubble and visit her website for updates and information on upcoming commissions and appearances.