meet the makers | Sep 7, 2023 |
This Mexican American artist crafts paintings and furniture out of plaster

This Mexican American artist crafts paintings and furniture out of plaster
Monica Curiel with her La Mari chairJimena Peck

Monica Curiel’s work is rooted in self-exploration, and more specifically, her Mexican ancestry. Drawing inspiration from art, music, architecture, design and fashion, the Denver-based artist aims to interpret—and discern—her place in the world at-large. “My work is a celebration of Mexican heritage and every sacrifice made in pursuit of a better life,” she tells Business of Home.

Born and raised in Dallas to immigrant parents, Curiel grew up helping her mother clean homes and her father renovate and flip houses. “In doing so, I learned skills and an understanding of construction materials that I now use to create my works,” she says. “My practice serves as a way to elevate the people and places that carry my ancestry.”

In her late teens, she was diagnosed with cancer, and she turned to art as a form of therapy. She began taking fine arts courses at various universities throughout the country, while undergoing cancer treatments. “I was a college student during the pandemic and could not afford some of the painting supplies I was studying with in class,” she says. “So, I used some of the construction materials that I first learned about while accompanying my father at work instead.”

By 2021, Curiel’s cancer was in remission, and she earned a bachelor’s in fine arts from the University of Kansas in the spring. That summer, she launched her art studio with a collection of textural paintings made on wooden panels with plaster. “I used grouting tools to create the look of raked sand, as seen in Zen gardens in Japan,” she says.

This Mexican American artist crafts paintings and furniture out of plaster
The Tela armchair and ottoman by Monica CurielJimena Peck

In addition to paintings, Curiel crafts furniture and decor objects primarily from plaster and wood. Along with chairs and ottomans, her functional offerings include table lamps and candleholders. “All of my plaster objects are hand-made, sculpted and sanded,” she says. “Each piece bridges my paintings and functional designs through its materiality.”

Her latest furniture collection, Herencia, pays homage to her parents’ native home of Jalisco, Mexico—where she spent summers as a child. In addition to plaster and wood, Curiel incorporated delicate materials like cloth and paper. “This creates more billowing forms that conjure memories: hanging clothes to dry in the back of my grandmother’s house after bathing in the river, the dresses I sewed for my dolls, the cobija [blanket] that brought me so much comfort,” she says. “It will be the first collection that features objects, furniture and paintings that are all influenced by one another.”

This Mexican American artist crafts paintings and furniture out of plaster
Selections from the Herencia collection by Monica CurielJimena Peck

Curiel also accepts custom client commissions and collaborates with other artists on bespoke plaster-based creations. A recent collaboration, Love Letters to My Mexican Heritage, features textile-infused wall art created in conjunction with fellow Mexican American artist Nicole McLaughlin. “It has been incredibly empowering to make a collection rooted in Mexican culture with someone who shares the experience,” says Curiel.

She plans to continue experimenting with plaster as a medium, hoping to expand her portfolio with new product categories as a result. “Ultimately, the goal is to push the boundaries of what I can create, and bring that to my clients and collectors,” she says.

If you want to learn more about Monica Curiel, visit her website or Instagram.

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