Visual Arts

Natalia Musalem finds the right texture with watercolors and charcoal

You can find art all over town -- not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

Artist Natalia Musalem of NM Photography came to Denver because she wanted to be closer to the West Coast and had heard good things from a Boulder-based friend. What began as a short stint in paradise has evolved into a life -- an artful life replete with painting and photography.

See also: Suzanne Heintz and her plastic love in Life Once Removed

After her friend extolled life in metro Denver a few years ago, Musalem sold most of the stuff in her college apartment, packed a small bag, and drove cross-country to Colorado, where she took a job at a rug gallery on Broadway's Antique Row. She's since transitioned to bilingual client support for a virtual consulting company; working from home has helped her "find extra time and freedom to be able to focus more on artwork," Musalem says. Her first series, an abstract sampling of paintings, has been on display at La Belle Rosette since last summer. Musalem hopes to expand the series and someday display it in a larger space. The La Belle series features strong lines, shapes, and textures, which are simple but quite impactful. "I like going back to the basics of texture and form because that's really what creates," Musalem says. "If you take a class to learn how to draw human form, it all starts with shapes -- a leg starts with a circle." From these basics, though, Musalem has been drawn to an abstract aesthetic and also to charcoal. Today Musalem relies mostly on charcoal and watercolor -- and a little bit of colored pencil. When used together, these tools -- particularly watercolor mixed with gray or black charcoal -- afford an almost endless opportunity for creating rich textures. The colors are muted but still powerful, eye-catching without being loud. Musalem attributes this to the watercolors. "I like to play with color a lot when I paint," she says. "My work really comes from emotion and what is going on in my life," Musalem continues. "I'm not sure if traveling has influenced that." The painter was born in Chile and spent her formative years there. She's since traveled around the United States, and earned a bachelor's degree in studio art in Tallahassee. Keep reading for more from Nathalia Musalem. "My emphasis, though, was photography," Musalem says, noting that she's mostly interested in creative photography -- not your run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter shot. "I choose to not demand perfection," she adds. "Instead, I strive for an appropriate mood." Initially, Musalem was enamored with black-and-white film. The horse photograph above is one of her favorites, and is actually two separate exposures that were scanned together. Lately Musalem has been dabbling in maternity photography, a perfect focus for her eye for the human form. "People are a good subject in anything," she says. "People are just interesting to photograph!" Musalem credits an aunt who is an artist in South America as being her primary influence. "She influenced me to like art in general and is one of the reasons I studied art in college," says Musalem. Because of this relative, she never neglected to nurture her creative mind, even at times when a passion for art wasn't convenient. The La Belle Rosette show is Musalem's first Denver exhibition and, really, her first non-collegiate exhibition. So far, she's garnered compliments and has even gotten a few gigs from folks who saw her work on display at the quaint, family-owned shop on South Pearl Street. For more information on Musalem and her work, visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Jamie Siebrase on Twitter.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelance writer, and author of the forthcoming Falcon Guide Hiking Wth Kids, Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families.
Contact: Jamie Siebrase