Karine Nigro Queiroz de Aquino has the striking beauty one expects from a fashion model, but the owner of Cartigliano Arts and Roger’s Frame & Gallery has made her life’s work about the beauty of restoration. However, we convinced this talented art expert, with the delicate touch of an old master, to let us adorn her in some inspiring fashions while we chatted about how her life’s journey brought her to Ocala.
Queiroz de Aquino is an exceptionally upbeat and down-to-earth individual, with an irrepressible zest for life, infectious laugh and generous spirit. The musical lilt of her voice and her blended accent create a charming effect when she speaks.
She’s the youngest of five children and a “late child” born to a businessman father and stay-at-home mom.
“I had a wonderful childhood,” she explains. “I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, but both mother and father family were Italians that emigrated to São Paulo. Life there was amazing. I did a lot of art classes with my mom, simple things: ceramics, porcelain painting and regular trips to attend theater productions and concerts, as well as visit museums. I think all of that contributed for my appreciation of art.”
Queiroz de Aquino describes herself as a “normal child” who indulged in “daily sea baths” but never had designs on creating art.
“I didn’t start as an artist,” she admits. “My focus was always to fix, make it better…rescue art. That’s my drive.”
While she attended law school, first in Rio de Janeiro and later in São Paulo, she discovered that the law was not her passion.
“At 21, I got married and started to think about a new horizon,” she recalls. “My mother-in-law had a cafe inside a museum and I started to manage it. On my breaks I started to get very interested in restoration. The master restorer became a friend. I sat there observing and, before you know it, I was working for her. She was my boss for 15 years, until the day I came here.”
During that time, Queiroz de Aquino became a master art restorer in her own right, earning credentials in restoration of easel paintings by the Museum of Sacred Art of São Paulo and the restoration and conservation of papers by the Brazilian Association of Binding and Restoration.
“I was titled at the Museum of Sacred Art of São Paulo, and a disciple of the Italian School,” she offers. “My major was in oil on canvas but, as restoration is a very technical profession, it is the day-by-day practice that makes you better. We mostly worked for churches with a lot of baroque influences: frescos, gilding, images of saints, and also with museums and private collectors.”
Some of her most prestigious projects were restoring pieces by such artists as Rembrandt, Poteiro, Volpi and Portinari, as well as pieces belonging to the Portuguese royal family.
In addition to works of art, she specializes in paper restoration.
“It includes all kind of documents and prints with all sorts of issues, from tears and oxidation to mold damage,” she explains. “It’s very challenging and a slow process. I am very conservative on paper due to its fragility.”
She also has expertise in fabric restoration to remove stains and oxidation.
She has a breezy manner and gets excited about each new project, without offering any negativity about the condition of the piece.
“Art gets old, just like we do,” she asserts. “What we have to do is maintain it—that’s conservation.”
In her work as a restorer, she can address such issues as pictorial loss (paint loss, flaking), old varnish (yellowing), removal of surface dirt, tears and holes, ripped borders, oxidation and issues related to canvases not laying flat or coming away from the frame. During her process she performs a detailed examination, cleaning tests, black light testing and analysis of the artwork.
She is also the owner of Roger’s Frame & Gallery here in Ocala, which offers custom framing and an impressive gallery, full of limited edition prints, giclée canvas prints, original art and posters. They also offer “extreme” custom framing of items like christening gowns and sports memorabilia, as well as hand-painted mats and hand-wrapped fabric mats.
On how she wound up here, Queiroz de Aquino offers, “I didn’t choose Ocala, Ocala chose me! I am married for 19 years. I met my husband Luiz in law school. We always loved America; since we are kids we’ve been coming as tourists. We were both exchange students as teenagers,” she continues. “I lived in Kansas and he was in Montana. We both had the best experience with our American host families and friends. That was crucial and put America on our dream list.”
That “American dream” was so strong that it eventually drew them away from their native land and culture.
“We love American values, family orientation, work, ethic and culture,” she asserts. “Although we had a good life in Brazil, we wanted our kids to have the American mindset and create roots here. Our dream began years before moving. We spent that time gathering resources to come over and to establish ourselves.”
With Florida in mind, she crafted a plan that would help her reach her goal.
“I had the idea of buying a business with a art background and, naturally, I would have to work little by little,” she says of her decision to purchase Roger Baldus’ business and make it the home of her restoration services. “When I bought the business, it already had loyal clientele and was well known for its good service over the past 45 years.”
She made the decision not to change the name of the frame shop and still employs staff members who have been working at the shop for over 35 years. Even Baldus, who is now her landlord, is on hand most days.
“He’s like a grandfather to my kids,” Queiroz de Aquino exclaims.
Her husband is also flourishing professionally. He recently completed a master’s degree in law at the University of Florida.
“I am eternally grateful for everything Ocala provided me,” she shares. “Ocala embraced us with a mother’s arms. It is also a perfect place for us. We love the springs, the trails, the nearby beaches and the golf. My children are very happy and love their schools (Blessed Trinity and Trinity High).”
Being a mother to her three children is the cornerstone of her American dream and being a mom is what gives her the greatest fulfillment. She says there is nothing like the feeling that comes from “making a difference in a young person through their life and raising them to make this world a little better. My favorite thing, as a mom, is seeing my children happily enjoying each other’s company, spending time with their friends, achieving good grades and dreaming big dreams.”
Queiroz de Aquino, of course, encourages her children to enjoy and appreciate art because she believes “art is beauty and beauty can elevate your soul and make you better, happier person. And beauty will save the world.”
Of her own journey and the masterwork that is her life, she concludes, “It’s been a great adventure and we are finally home. I think everything is where it is meant to be.”