Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Local artist Catina Bernard puts the finishing touches on a detail sketch Thursday at her gallery on Pearl Street.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Local artist Catina Bernard puts the finishing touches on a detail sketch Thursday at her gallery on Pearl Street.

Through the viewfinder: Gallery owner overcomes nerves, lupus for success

Published 12:01am Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NATCHEZ — Catina Bernard has been an artist all of her life, and even through a bout with systemic lupus and two strokes, she continues to make her life meaningful through art.

Bernard, 40, began creating art when she was a teenager and went on to study graphic design at Mississippi College. After graduation she went to work in Jackson as a graphic designer, but was unfulfilled as an artist.

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Local artist Catina Bernard sits in her gallery.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Local artist Catina Bernard sits in her gallery.

Bernard packed her bags and moved back to Natchez, but still couldn’t get up the nerve to open her own gallery, so she went to work as a library assistant at Alcorn State. That too didn’t last long, and she decided it was finally time to make her living as an artist.

“I had to soak up enough nerve to find a small building and do what I really should be doing, which is my art,” she said.

But before she could open her business, Bernard realized something was wrong.

“Shortly after I moved back, that’s when I realized I had an illness,” Bernard said. “It was lupus.”

Inflammation and swelling of the joints is a result of lupus, which impacted her work.

“It didn’t really affect my skills that much, but it affected me mentally,” she said.

Depression sank in, and Bernard lost the desire to draw.

“It really took a hold on me,” she said. “I had problems getting out of bed in the morning.”

After chemotherapy, her lupus went into remission, but she had a stroke in early 2004.

Despite having to go through rehabilitation to learn to walk and talk again, she opened Bernard Gallery later that same year.

Her gallery was one of the first in the downtown area, she said.

“If I had any questions or needed advice, I really had to figure things out on my own,” she said.

Her business thrived until another stroke caused her to close her doors for three years until she could regain her health.

About a year ago, she opened her gallery in a new location on Pearl Street and continued her lifelong passion of art.

“I’ve got to believe it’s God’s plan,” Bernard said. “It’s a God-given talent. I didn’t create this.”