“Migration” is a mural painted by Romo with a group August 17, 2019. Located in Garden Homes, a small community in Milwaukee, WI, this mural is one out of a series which captures the hardships of African American families when escaping to the North during the period of Jim Crow Laws.
Self-taught acrylic painter Carolina Romo uses her art to express her emotions, as well as share the feelings of others’ to the world. Having moved a lot before settling in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, painting was Romo’s outlet and something that had always provided comfort to her despite the turbulence of her life. The prevalent theme throughout all of her work is presented through a strong sense of empathy, as showing the hardships that minority groups and those with mental illnesses face on a daily basis is seen throughout many of her pieces.
From middle school to high school, Romo has been teaching herself how to draw and paint, as classes weren’t accessible to her. Perfecting and customizing her style, she used this as her outlet to deliver messages about issues that were important to her.
“I’ve always wanted to do something that would help people or have an impact on their lives. I learned that with my art, I can do that—educate and show others the pain minorities feel or the pain of someone with mental illness,” Romo said when asked about why she picked up painting. As a person who has struggled with conveying her feelings and thoughts, the muralist found her voice through creating her work.
Art has provided Romo this escape from reality, as well as a platform to raise her voice. “While painting and drawing, there’s this feeling of freedom that comes with it,” she said. As much comfort pursuing this creative outlet has given her, the self-taught artist didn’t always have a picture-perfect painted vision of her future. At one point, she wasn’t sure this was something she wanted to pursue, instead going into the military.
“Honestly in high school, I didn’t have a clue of what I was going to do. I always thought art wasn’t a professional job and that I wasn’t going to be anyone.” However, after putting her own happiness first rather than the expectations of others, Romo revisited the idea of continuing her art, this time following it as a career and now majoring in fine arts at Columbia College Chicago.
Romo added that throughout the years, her art has changed incredibly. When asked how her approach has evolved, she stated that when she didn’t see herself as an artist she would simply redraw art that had already been created. Now, Romo says she “thinks outside of the box,” having elevated her style to create original pieces.
Self portrait “Mestiza” is a reflection of Romo’s life experiences and culture. The title was inspired by the name of her specific ethnicity, with each square representing the different major parts of herself and her life.
Throughout her time being an artist, Romo has mentioned that she's learned to love and appreciate criticism. Taking the advice and hints, she’s taught herself to paint more freely and avoid being a perfectionist, all while still improving her technique. “I learned to be proud of my work.”
When viewing her pieces, Romo wants the audience to be challenged. She wants her pieces to make her viewers think more critically of the issues that are happening everyday, whether they see them within their own communities or not. “Being an artist taught me to be able to connect with people, and understand emotions better. I learned to love my art and appreciate its beauty, and stay dedicated,” Romo said.
“History Repeats” was a painting Romo had a vision for since the moment Trump had gotten elected. “I knew what his plans were. I knew that what happened with the Nazis would happen again, but this time with Mexican immigrants.”
“My art is meant for people who don’t know about police brutality or the kids caged under the custody of ICE. Some of my art is for people who are just in pain or hurt mentally,” she said. “I just want them to know that they aren’t alone in this.”