Catherine Kaleel Paints the Details of Golden Memories

When Catherine Kaleel’s mother sold her home, eight boxes of childhood belongings from Kaleel and her sibling arrived at her doorstep. The unpacked nostalgia of those “golden memories,” as she calls them, inspired her to take a break from the figurative portraits of young men she’d been doing and begin painting small pictures of the items. After she exhausted her collection, she looted a friend’s assortment of hand-held electronics, her continuing fascination with manufacture and design leading her to paint larger “monster still lifes.” Cassettes, Game Boys, an Atari system, rotary phones, Topps baseball cards, and toys were painted, all so the viewer could see more details. “You can see the large pieces from far away,” she says. “I hear people shout from a distance, ‘I had a Speak & Spell! I had one of those!’ ” She painted an old Walkman in “Sony Black,” and it looks shiny and new, ready to play a BFF’s mix tape with the push of a chrome-plated button. The eight-track player “Mego 2XL Robot” has a Johnny Cash album in its slot—the music Kaleel was listening to when she painted it—and you can almost see the red eyes flashing as the Man in Black sings to his captive audience, tucked away in prison.“Mego 2XL Robot” (2017), 14 by 18 inches, oil on panel. Kaleel’s paintings can be seen in the group show “Young Bloods,” from April 6 to May 28 at Saltfineart Gallery, 346 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949-715-5554, See more of Kaleel’s work at

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