Featured photo: Carolina Corona’s work will be on display at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts through March 27. (courtesy photo)

It started with a call from Shannon Stokes.

Stokes, the patron services and events manager at Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, remembered Winston-Salem based artist Carolina Corona from her previous work with the Arts Council of Winston-Salem. She contacted Corona to flaunt her creations in the Arboreal Gallery of the venue, an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“I accepted because I have a lot of pieces I want to display,” she says.

Corona is from Veracruz, Mexico near the Gulf and moved to Wilmington at age 10, falling more in love with the beach. She attended Salem College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and arts education with a concentration in painting and printmaking. She taught for two years in the public school system before deciding to focus on her art full-time.

With a hammer in hand, Corona began arranging Reflections: A Collection of Works by Carolina Corona in the gallery about two weeks ago, completing setup in two days.It features watercolor paintings, acrylic paintings and archival prints, the pieces hanged and arranged by season. Corona, a nature enthusiast, finds beauty in the small things, from the dots on a ladybug’s back to the peeling bark on a tree.

“Long Branch Falls” by Carolina Corona (courtesy image)

“I find something beautiful in just about any landscape,” she says.

She displays her love of nature and its conservation in her art, gathering inspiration from places she’s experienced in the United States.

“All these paintings are inspired by one photograph or a series of photographs that I’ve taken myself on different road trips or vacations I’ve taken around the United States,” she says.

Wrightsville at Sunset is a watercolor painting featuring a single gray bird on the shore of the beach. The ocean is created by shades of navy, orange and pink, imitating how the ocean reflects colors in the sky.

According to Corona, one highlight of the exhibit includes the Goddess series, paintings of female figures surrounded by the natural elements. “Sea Goddess” puts the full beauty of the ocean on display as the goddess’ tanned skin, freckles and piercing blue eyes immediately captivate the viewer. Different shades of blue, teal and purple create foamy waves that encapsulate the goddess. With earrings made of seashells and a gold high-neck necklace covered in jewels, it’s evident she is a deity. The piece reflects the “radiant and positive energy” Corona feels from the ocean when visiting the beach.

“Sea Goddess” by Carolina Corona (courtesy image)

She mostly works in her home studio, but when she’s up for lugging her large collection of art materials outside — easels, brushes, the works — she may work there, valuing its quiet.

“That feeling of being outdoors is so peaceful and serene,” she says.

Each piece begins with a drawing of 5-minute sketch of the landscape on site. Corona then paints the image on a canvas, declining to do a larger sketch first as she’d rather make changes with the paint as she goes.

Although the pieces in the exhibit are paintings and prints, Corona also creates from recycled materials, once using old magazines to make baskets. She even moves beyond the canvas to beautify the world around her.

Recently, Corona was chosen as one of twelve Winston-Salem artists to decorate bus stops around the city as part of the Artistic Bus Shelter Program organized by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Art Commission. Behind those waiting at the Reynolda Road bus stop sits “Nature’s Home,” a dedication to plants and pollinators native to North Carolina. The bold, yellow hues found in the bright swallowtail butterfly and Carolina lily stand out against the reds of the Venus flytrap and cardinal. Another notch in Corona’s public art belt includes a vibrant hummingbird mural downtown that she painted in November 2020.

Corona in front of her downtown Winston-Salem mural near the Arts Park. (courtesy image)

She says that she creates based on her feelings of freedom that she senses when immersed in the outdoors.

“When I’m outside I feel those same feelings I felt when I was growing up in Mexico,” she says.

She wants spectators to feel the same way, losing themselves in the art and nature when viewing her pieces. She believes the Earth should be admired, and its resources cherished, and works with the Gateway Nature Preserve to further protect the place she views as a sanctuary. With her art, she aims to send just one message.

“Preserve, conserve and explore the environment,” she says.

The exhibit is available to view Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m until Mar. 27 at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. It is free and open to the public. Learn more about Carolina Corona on her website and Facebook page

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