Catnip for Connoisseurs

Living a dream incognito, hard-working El Gato Gomez churns out art for those who like things sleek and stylish
Catnip for Connoisseurs
'Audrey Beatnik' ("I love to add characters as participants in abstracts," El Gato says).
Catnip for Connoisseurs
El Gato Gomez in her studio.

It’s every artist’s dream: fame, a degree of fortune, the chance to follow in the footsteps of idols.

But how few attain it!

Consider the story of one young artist, who shall be nameless. An art school dropout, she found herself married, with one son and another on the way, making a living trolling estate sales and live auctions to buy, and then sell, mid-century modern furnishings.

It was fun and profitable—but it wasn’t art. Plus, it was physically demanding work.

“I was pregnant,” says the artist who, like Catwoman, jealously safeguards her secret identity. “I didn’t want to schlep around teak dining tables.”

Art to the rescue?

Something like that.

“I saw a vintage painting that I liked on eBay,” she says. “It was of an elongated black cat. I fell in love with it, but I couldn’t afford it. So I decided to paint one for myself, and it came out so well I kept painting and painting and painting them.”

Not only did our heroine adopt the name of her feline subject—‘El Gato Gomez’—she prospered through her invention.

“It started working immediately,” El Gato says of her sudden, shocking success. “I put my first painting on eBay, and it sold really high. Then I put another, and another—and they just kept going higher and higher.”

El Gato and her husband and business partner—Mr. Gato, she calls him—immediately dropped mid-century modern furnishings for mid-century modern-inspired art.

What has poured since from her brushes and colored pencils is astounding—“retro futurism,” she calls it—flying cars piloted by robots, fancy dames in sleek gowns, houses with Eichler-like glass walls and Palm Springs-styled butterfly roofs, flying saucers, Cadillacs with tail fins, abstractions and quasi-abstractions, tiki heads, aqua-people, and much, much more.

It’s a bit of an Ozzie-and-Harriet tale, this El Gato Gomez business, which is based, sensibly enough to El Gato, in the old steel-mill town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “There is so much amazing mid-century stuff here. Nice high-end mid-century modern houses,” El Gato says.