Profile: Cat Delett, Artist / Illustrator


By Gregory Burrus

In my mission to help promote and move folks to recognize the greatness of the Maplewood, South Orange, and Valley Arts Districts, I encounter many artists and musicians with a tremendous ability to produce wonderful pieces of art and at the same time downplay their accomplishments.  Well, I encountered a local artist named Catherine Delett who has a very low key persona but produces some wonderful mixed media collages and illustrations. 

Catherine, known at "Cat," describes her work this way: "I create my art using cut paper that I have previously painted with acrylic paint, occasionally incorporating colored pencil or colored paper. My work is similar to a collage in that I use paper affixed to a larger surface.  But unlike traditional collage, I hand paint the paper to create colors and textures, then cut precise shapes to construct and express the image I am creating."  The result is intriguing, definitive representations of objects, animals, and humans that make folks feel a certain way, even if Cat did not intend for the person to feel that way.

Image – Cat Delett artwork from the series Birds and Words juxtaposes songbirds with headlines and pulls quotes from vintage LIFE magazine articles to create amusing and thought-provoking pieces.

Image – Cat Delett artwork from the series Birds and Words juxtaposes songbirds with headlines and pulls quotes from vintage LIFE magazine articles to create amusing and thought-provoking pieces.

Well, in trying to understand Catherine Delett, there is no better way than to get it straight from this very authentic person, where she enlightens us on her way of approaching art and making it work for her.  

G.B.: Your quick bio on the web says you’ve made your way from Trenton to here in Maplewood.  Were there any other stops in between of note that affected/helped your career?

Catherine Delett: I grew up way, way down in South Jersey in a town called Northfield.  We lived very close to the beach, and I spent a lot of time there in all seasons.  As a result, I have a great affinity for the ocean and it shows up quite often in my work.  I've lived in a lot of different places both in and out of NJ, and they all influenced me in some way.  But it's been here, in Maplewood, that I feel like I've been able to bring all those influences together.  I'm not a big city person, so to find in this small town area of Maplewood, South Orange, and the Valley Arts District such a vibrant and creative arts scene is really fabulous.  This area is just teeming with amazing artists - it's very inspiring.

What, why or how did you become an artist?  Were you drawing on the walls as a little tyke or did it start in school, college etc.?

I think I was drawing in the womb.  It's always been a part of who I am, to a greater or lesser extent at different times.  I studied graphic design and illustration in college, so that led me down a whole different and interesting career path.  Even though I always had creative projects on the side, it took a while for me to loop back to creating art full time.

Overall what type of art excites you the most in your line of art?

I think I get most excited by work that is very different than mine - abstract work, pattern design, sculpture, things like that.  It can be very inspiring to look at those types of work and see how it could relate to something I'm working on or spark a new idea.

I see in your bio, you list some of the artists from the past that excite you.  Who from today's world, your colleagues, etc. do you like or inspires you?

Ah, this is a tough one.  There are so many incredibly talented artists in this area of Maplewood, South Orange, and the Valley Arts area, and I feel very fortunate to have so many opportunities to go to different exhibits to see their work.  I'm inspired by being in this creative environment - it's just in the air around here.  I find it exciting to know that I haven't even scratched the surface of what I can and want to do.  Every artist I meet, all the new work I see, provides more inspiration, more ideas.

What’s your working environment?  What is it, a desk? Space in a studio?  Are you one of those really neat, organized artists or everything is everywhere and you know where it all comes from and then magic happens - great art pieces? 

I have a small, sunny studio space on the third floor of the house.  Because it's small, I'm forced to be relatively organized, but when I am deep into working on a piece, all bets are off.  Tiny bits and large pieces of painted paper are everywhere.

Image: Gregory Burrus

Image: Gregory Burrus

Making a living as an artist can be exhilarating or very tough from what I can see.  Has it been a great journey for you?  Are there any downsides that you would have loved to avoid?

I wish I hadn't waited this long to commit so much time to art again, and there isn't one thing I don't love about what I do.  Even with the ups and downs, I am definitely enjoying the journey so far.

My philosophy about art is there is room for everyone.  There is no need to be competitive.  My art isn't going to speak to everyone, and I would never expect it to.  But the person who isn't drawn to my work will be drawn to someone else's.  There is room for everyone.  We should support and encourage each other.  And around this area of Maplewood, South Orange, and the Valley Arts, for the most part, that's what happens - we are all out supporting each other.  I love that.

When and what was the motivation behind the newsletter?  It's a lot of work, so something had to move you in that direction.

Before I lived in Maplewood, I lived in West Orange, so I've watched the Valley Arts District grow.  There are so many exciting things happening there.  Combined with Maplewood and South Orange, we live in an area with a very vibrant arts scene - visual art, music, theater... we really have it all.  To me, Maplewood, South Orange, and the Valley Arts District is like the best kept secret in NJ.  But it's not the best thing for people in the arts to have the area where they are performing and creating to be a secret! 

So last year, I starting thinking about how to get new people out to all the events happening in the areas of Maplewood, South Orange, and the Valley Arts District.  Even within the three communities, there are people who don't know about everything that is happening and it can be hard for the artists, performers, and venues to get the word out for a variety of reasons. 

After thinking through different considerations, I decided on the newsletter format.  I started it with a soft launch in October, and it's been growing nonstop ever since.  It's truly a labor of love.

What would you tell an aspiring artist coming up today who is thinking of making a life as an artist?  Do you have a set of keys to success in being an artist or things to avoid?

I definitely have no "keys to success" and don't consider myself to be successful as an artist.  I'm only at the beginning of my journey.  But I would tell an aspiring artist to create every day, talk to as many other artists as you can, say “yes” to opportunities, and never stop making art. 

What should the world know about Cat Delett that is not art-related, that you have not said above?

Ha ha - Let's see... for a little while I played a guitar and ukulele in a local band that played kids music.  We were called The Tantrums and our main gig was the Maplewood Library.  Did I say "main gig"?  I mean only gig!

In a few words, what's your daily motto or inspiration?

Keep going.  And don't forget to laugh.

Thank you Cat.

~

In my mission to help promote and move folks to recognize the greatness of the Maplewood, South Orange, and the Valley Arts Districts, I encounter many artist and musicians with a tremendous ability to downplay their accomplishments.  They of course don’t see it that way, most go “oh I need to be known for my art.”  To those of us who are not even close to being an artist, what they do is magic.  An artist sees it as coming out of them and we, the non-artist, see it as them – the art and the person are one.  That’s because, like most things in life, we judge ourselves based on our closest interests / community of common folks we are with most of the time. 

So where can we learn more about this wonderful, very talented artist? 

On Facebook, converse with Catt at https://www.facebook.com/catdelet.  Keep up with her at https://www.facebook.com/catdelettart/.  View a large collection of her work on the web at http://www.catbird.org/blog/.  And this week, Cat will be in the Open Orange Art Exhibition:  a truly fabulous show at the Valley Arts Firehouse Gallery, in Orange, NJ featuring 100 artworks for sale created by over 30 artists.  Cat’s work, along with a few other artists,  is also featured in the May Pop-Up Gallery at the West Orange Arts Center exhibition on Valley Road ‘till the end of May.  It is definitely worth your while to check her work out. 

About the Writer

Gregory Burrus with artist Cat Delett

Gregory Burrus with artist Cat Delett

Gregory Burrus is a supporter of local businesses, community events, jazz, blues musicians and local art exhibitions.  On a regular basis Gregory promotes art, music, business, history, government and local community events through social media marketing, writing articles, blogging and photo journalism.  Gregory Burrus resides in beautiful, historic town of South Orange, New Jersey, the home of beautiful gas lamps, many historic buildings, some wonderful old trees, the South Orange Performing Arts Center, Seton Hall University, South Mountain Reservation and many gorgeous, vibrant, growing communities in the surrounding North Jersey towns and cities of Essex County.  Having fun living life while helping others. Connect with Gregory Burrus:  Facebook | Google+ |YouTube | Twitter Instagram | Pinterest | Vimeo

Keywords: art, artist, cat delett, maplewood, south orange, valley arts district