Monday, March 8, 2010

For International Women's Day, Down-the-Rabbit-Hole With Camille Rose Garcia

One of my favorite artists in the newbrow genre today is Camille Rose Garcia. It warms my heart to see an current day artist actually receiving the cudos and success they deserve, now, - rather than after they are dead. And this artist is a woman, a Hispanic and a rebel to boot! Who better to celebrate International Women's Day with? As well as the timely release of her new book "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" with wonderfully warped, fresh, new watercolors based on the Lewis Carroll original. These pieces are much more colorful than Camille's previous works and a bit on the brighter side, due in part to her study of the earlier Disney films.
Camille's modern gothic, dark and beautiful style has brought tears to my eyes. Lucky enough to see her solo exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art, "Tragic Kingdom" in 2007, I lingered in it for hours, captivated by her artistry. The vibrant colors in some, the vintage browned patina of others. Her black inks were fluid, yet scratchy, often left with free form drips ala graffiti style. The skies dripped with what could be smog, blood, ice or tears. Yet happily- creatures, dark-eyed girls, flora and fauna coexist. Her punk fairy story princesses; the textures of the wood washed backgrounds, all complemented and married seamlessly into the overall image. These were huge masterpieces, filling room after room and wall after wall, with majestic worlds and outspoken social commentary. Not afraid to throw a well-deserved punch at the injustices of our world, she does it with originality and expert artistry.
 A fellow escapee from Orange County, Camille was heavily influenced by the Disney environ and her works twist the sugar coating in a truly unique vision, embracing the beauty but rejecting the hypocrisy within. OC outcasts often referred to the Magic Kingdom as the Tragic Kingdom, finding ways to make light of that confining, oppressive environment. All kinds of pet names for areas abounded, relishing in the fact that they were not always PC. For instance Garden Grove was Garbage Grove, La Habra was Guadalahabra, Fullerton became Fullertone, Anaheim was Anaslime... The repression, bigotry and plasticity of the OC mindset spawned great art and music, it was either rebel or lose your soul. Garcia's style has been called "Disney-gone-wrong" and for many of us it is oh-so-right!
An excerpt by Liesl Bradner from the LA Times blog, "Hero Complex"-
LB: Describe your vision of Alice.
Camille Rose Garcia: The original John Tenniel illustrations were always some of my favorites and those were definitely lodged in my head. I wanted to stay true to his vision but I’m so influenced by Disney. I loved the backgrounds in their early movies, ("Snow White," "Pinocchio") so I watched  a lot of those films to try to get more of a color feel. They were all done in the '30s with watercolor which has that very classic touch. It did occur to me to give Alice black hair, make it more edgy and unique but I wanted to stay true to the classic feel of the book. Using watercolors referred back to the Tenniel work but I added a little bit of a modern gothic touch as well. That was my vision for the work. ...

LB: Of the more than 50 illustrations, do you have a favorite?
CRG:  The Lobster-Quadrille. 
It was new and totally original. Tenniel has never illustrated that scene -- a dance where Alice and friends fling lobsters into the sea. It was a totally virgin experience for me where I had all the other scenes registered in my head. And I managed to sneak a narwhal in the background. 

An excerpt From "I Heart Daily" blog- 
IHD: Has this always been one of your favorite books? 
Camille Rose Garcia: It has definitely been a favorite since childhood. I collect children's books and I have four copies of Alice in Wonderland. This story just lends itself to such rich visual interpretation, the landscapes and situations are so surreal.
 IHD: Did you feel pressure to do the story justice since it's such a treasured piece of literature?
CRG: Yes, I think that was the hardest part -- how to honor the original Tenniel illustrations and trying not to veer too far from the familiar. It's hard to even come close to the original Tenniel illustrations, because they are so iconic. My strategy was to make the illustrations familiar enough to the originals, but to really go wild with the color.