Katarina Damiano’s “dream on canvas”

Union Gallery

Student artist explores surrealist dreamscapes and sexual assault with new work

Credit: 
Supplied by Katarina Damiano

When Katarina Damiano woke up from a nightmare several weeks ago, her reaction was different from most. Rather than attempting to shake it off, she scrambled to write down the details, and then took the account straight to her professor. 

The dream would become the inspiration for her latest work in progress, a surrealist oil portrait of the cycle between life and death. Within the portrait, an old woman hunches over, clutching at a baby as she begins to sag and melt. With a rose for a head, the baby drains the life from her as it blooms. 

Inspired by the work of Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein and Frida Kahlo, the second-year Fine Art student experiments with several styles in her artwork, ranging from pop art to realism. 

(Supplied by Katarino Damiano)

Whether for her personal artwork, school assignments or social awareness, Damiano often gets her inspiration from “experiences, memories, and dreams,” making each artwork intensely personal. They’re based on “dreamlike ideas,” she said. “I’m just trying to convey a dream on canvas.” 

Working towards developing her skills as a hyperrealist in between assignments, Damiano says she’s become “nocturnal”, painting through the night and then going to class in the morning. Hyperrealism, a style of artwork so intricate that it appears like a photograph for viewers, takes “a lot of time and a lot of detail,” Damiano explained. “I haven’t slept at all,” she laughed, “can you tell?” 

It wasn’t exactly the university experience Damiano had been expecting throughout most of her high school career. Until her second semester of Grade 12, she had intended to go into an undergraduate nursing program. 

For Damiano, pursuing an undergraduate degree in fine art had always been discouraged and thought of as too big of a risk. However, once she received her acceptance to the Queen’s Fine Art program — which takes on just 30 students each year — she knew she had to take a leap of faith. 

“I’ve always had a hand for [art], and I never had to try to be good at it, until I came to university,” Damiano said. “I thought maybe it’s something that’s meant to be.” 

Despite falling in love with art when she was first introduced to it in kindergarten, she had never thought of pursuing it professionally until she filled out her university applications. Damiano had even only begun oil painting just a year before she submitted her application. 

Now, when she thinks of the future, Damiano knows she “wants to be an artist, and have [her] work displayed in galleries and become known”. To reach that goal, Damiano said, “I’m trying to do the best work I can now.” 

(Supplied by Katarino Damiano)

In addition to her class workload, Damiano also has plans for a large-scale collaborative art project to highlight stigma surrounding sexual assault on campus. Titled What Were You Wearing, she intends to collect descriptions of the clothing that students were wearing when they experienced sexual harassment or assault, painting them across several canvases before displaying them to her audience. 

Damiano’s goal is to tackle the common issue of victim-blaming for sexual assault that creates a culture of shame and makes it difficult for people to report incidents. 

“I had an experience with sexual assault last year,” she explained, “and the first thing the campus support unit asked me was, ‘What were you wearing?’”  

Damiano’s disappointment and outrage with the continued lack of attention to sexual assault on campus is what motivated her to start the project. 

“It doesn’t matter what I was wearing,” Damiano said, “I went there to report an issue. I want to have that awareness brought to campus because, personally, I found that my experience was very poorly dealt with.” 

She hopes her art will help with the public’s perception of sexual assault victims, and help other victims and survivors better deal with their own experiences. 

Damiano is currently accepting submissions of outfit descriptions for her What Were You Wearing project, and encourages all those who feel comfortable sharing to get in contact with her either through Facebook or email.

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