Painting murals was the way Rosalia Torres Weiner from Mexico regained her true passion, and now she uses her talent to promote other artists in North Carolina.
In her studio in Charlotte, the state's biggest city, amid her own brightly colored paintings of flowers, faces, abstracts and landscapes, Torres Weiner told Efe that ever since she was a little girl she wanted to be a painter like her idol, Frida Kahlo.
Her roots are Mexican and her art reflects the history and culture of her homeland, besides highlighting elements of nature, landscapes, portraits, skulls, buildings - what she calls the "art of Rosalia."
She grew up in the picturesque municipality of Xochimilco near Mexico City and close to the home of the economic benefactor of famed muralist Diego Rivera, Dolores Olmedo, from whom she heard stories of the famous artistic couple and dreamed of earning her living by painting just like they did.
"I never took formal art classes. My family's idea was that I should be like my brothers and sisters - a doctor or an attorney, and though I went to college, I studied tourism and later business, knowledge that helped me a lot in my career as an artist."
However, a vacation she took 26 years ago in the United States changed the Mexican girl's life. She subsequently went to work in Los Angeles for a hotel chain - her previous experience at the Mexican Caribbean resort of Cancun clinched the job.
There she met her husband, and 13 years ago decided to move to Charlotte, where she finally managed to fulfill her dream of being a painter.
"I returned to art by beginning to paint the walls of my children's rooms, then of the neighbors, and in 2001 I launched my own business, Home Art Design. I even hired Americans," she said.
A contract with a construction company brought in several jobs, creating murals in homes worth millions of dollars and pleasing the varied tastes of her clients.
Though the company was doing well, everything changed in 2008 with the economic crisis that burst the real estate bubble, which in turn forced the artist to reinvent herself to be able to keep on painting.
In 2010 she founded the non-profit organization Project Art Aid, whose mission was helping the growing Hispanic community in Charlotte by means of art.
The first project was an exhibition by 15 local artists to collect funds for the victims of earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.
The following year the "Goes Pink" idea was born to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and they painted 12 x 12 canvases to make a mosaic of a pink heart, a project that collected $15,000.
The muralist's next challenge is to establish for Latino artists a space of their own, where the community can talk with the painters in person.
"There's a lot of talent in our community as there is in cities like Los Angeles, Miami and New York, but we need a promotional platform - which we can achieve if we unite. That's what I want to concentrate on," Torres said.