The multi-layered socio-political narratives found within the kaleidoscopic psychedelia of Camille Rose Garcia’s paintings, arrive as subtle and effective triggers to our subconscious minds, initiating our unconscious processing of issues and events concerning these most troubling of contemporary times. Through the years, Garcia’s inventive use of symbolism has pulled heavily upon her nostalgia and passion for various facets and eras of the creative arts, including, Disney animation, 70’s punk rock and classic sci-fi literature. In her most recent work, musical themes have been pushed to the forefront, as a powerful example of the positivity, strength and energising potential of human creativity, and standing as a metaphor of hope for the evolution of society’s collective consciousness in the face of the current quagmire of our world’s emotional and political unrest.
Camille Rose Garcia was born in 1970 in Los Angeles, California. The child of a Mexican activist filmmaker father and a muralist/painter mother, she apprenticed at age 14 working on murals with her mother while growing up in the generic suburbs of Orange County, visiting Disneyland and going to punk shows with the other disenchanted youth of that era. Garcia’s work has been featured in celebrated magazines including, Juxtapoz, Rolling Stone, and Modern Painters, and is included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum as well as the San Jose Museum of Art, which held a retrospective of her work, Tragic Kingdom in 2007.
WOW x WOW is most delighted to have had a recent opportunity to speak to Camille about her brand-new collection of work, ‘The Ballrooms of Mars’, currently on show at the wonderful Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome, Italy. We hope that you enjoy the following exclusive interview in which Camille discusses the inspirations and concepts behind her striking new paintings.
Hey Camille! It’s such an honour to have you join us for a little chat! Let’s start off by talking about the event which has brought us together, the exciting unveiling of ‘The Ballrooms of Mars’, your brand new solo exhibit at the wonderful Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome. Firstly, we’d love to hear a little about how your relationship with Dorothy Circus began.
Yes, thank you, it’s my pleasure! Well, Alex has been a collector of my work for many years now, and we had been talking about doing a show for a few years, but the timing just wasn’t right. I had heard so many great things about her and of course love the shows she does at the Gallery. It was such a nice pleasure to finally meet her this time!
The work for ‘The Ballrooms of Mars’ revolves heavily around your love of music, the title of the show itself coming from a T. Rex song on their 1972 album, ‘The Slider’. What were the catalysts for the development of the themes explored in your new work and how did the collection evolve during its creation?
It was really a confluence of ideas. I will have to start with the election of Trump, which many here in California are truly horrified by. We view it as a terrible step backwards and inciting all of the worst qualities in humanity. Many of my friends were called to be more political. I found myself to want to promote all that is best about Science, Music, Art, and Creativity, believing that these are very precious and essential studies for the evolution of consciousness. So, I chose to focus on that specifically. Recently, I started playing Bass in a punk rock band called Batmoth, and also watching documentaries about Space. I became very interested in the intersection of musical vibrations and Space after watching a documentary about the Voyager Golden Record, aboard the Voyager Space Probe sent out by NASA in 1977. I became interested in this idea that every 25,000 years, (the Precession of the Equinoxes), delegates from every planet in our solar system would get together basically for a listening party on Mars. I’ve been listening to T. Rex since high school, and whenever that song Ballrooms of Mars came on, I just pictured Marc Bolan giving a concert on Mars. So, it seemed a good time to go off-planet!
Sticking with the theme of music for a moment longer, it has clearly impacted your life in profound ways. Please reminisce about your relationship with sounds and musical genres throughout your lifetime.
One of my first memories, I was just a toddler, was listening to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by the Beatles and spinning around in circles. I think that was my first moment realizing the power of music to transform. I remember hearing the Clash for the first time when I was 6. ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ came on the radio. I can recall perfectly the exact texture and smells of my friends’ living room in which this song first came into my life. High school was a love of all 1970’s rock and glam rock, but especially Bowie and T. REX. This period also was the full exploration of late 70’s punk, the Damned, the Clash, Sex Pistols, Adam and the Ants, and the Los Angeles punk scene which I was more personally involved in. My boyfriend in high school was in a band and I was constantly around musicians. That’s when I first learned to play Bass guitar, and I fell in love with the creation of music as well as the listening.
Going into a little deeper detail about the characters in these new paintings, what can you tell us about planets who manifest themselves as Gods?
It was difficult to take a concept about musical vibrations and planets and put it into paintings, the tendency is to be quite literal. I work in a language of symbols, primarily, with the human figure being very central to most of my work. So, it made sense to ‘personify’ the characters of the planets in the same way as the Greek and Roman gods. It’s a way to make abstract concepts more tangible. So, for instance, ‘The Ballad of Neptune’, Neptune is very far out in the Solar System, a loner, isolated. Not much Sun, a blue ice planet. So, I imagined him as an isolated being performing a lonely song, longing for love. Pluto, on the other hand, is also very far out and was cast out of the Solar System, then reluctantly brought back in as a planet. So, he is a bit more of an unsavory character, none of the love we give to Venus or Mars.
Over the course of your career, how have you seen your place within the art landscape change? In what ways do you feel that gallery and museum approaches have changed or evolved to best represent Pop Surrealism and the type of artwork you create?
Hmm, this is a great question!. I’ve certainly seen more ‘inclusion’ from museums, as they are realizing Pop Surrealism is more approachable for people than maybe Conceptualism. There is still a long way to go to be considered a ‘legitimate’ art movement. But I feel it’s actually taken more seriously outside of the US.
What has been the most exciting life and impact you have you witnessed any of your art take on, once it has left confines of your studio? What kind of feelings do you have about letting your creations go and live their own lives in the big wide world?
Well, it’s probably small, but when I hear that younger, high school students are studying my work or doing a report on it, that gives me a great amount of satisfaction. Regardless of what the Museums or Art Historians decide to do or not do about Pop Surrealism, my work lives forever in the landscape of the virtual and cannot easily be erased. So, I will be a part of the history of Modern Art no matter what.
Can you tell us about some of the greatest breakthroughs you’ve experienced within your learning as an artist? Those moments that have opened up whole new creative avenues or that have led to you taking large leaps forward in your development?
Actually, I have had one very recently! I’ve been painting for many years now, but recently I have been collaborating on making a Stop-Motion animated film. It’s based on a book I wrote and illustrated called ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Deekay’’. There are so many more elements to film-making because suddenly you have time, space, and music to work with! So, it’s working in the 4th dimension after working in 2 dimensions for so long, and I can finally tie together a love of narrative, images, music, humor, and collaboration that I wasn’t ever able to do before. My father was a filmmaker and I finally feel a connection to the art form he was involved in for so many years.
Every artist strives to develop and progress their skills and vision; treading water has a tendency to kill passion and motivation. However, what are some of the things about your creative process that you feel it’s important to have remain stable and constant?
Well it’s always a struggle to balance pure creativity with commerce. I see it as a challenge, but I also don’t like to pander to an audience, I would rather they follow me on my journey and be surprised! I feel the most important thing is really to make time to do a project or projects that live outside of the confines of the market. You simply cannot monetize everything. So for example, I have been writing and illustrating this book ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Deekay’. It lives outside of any kind of monetary or deadline driven goals, it is completely independent. It’s taken the longest, but it’s what I am most excited to share with the world! Also playing in the punk band Batmoth is great because again, no expectation of riches or fame, just the pure pleasure of making music.
What are the best and also the worst pieces of advice that you’ve ever been given about your art or career?
One of the best pieces of advice I was given in Graduate school. A professor walked in to the classroom and wrote on the board, “No One Cares About You.” It was shocking and offensive, but the point was, you have to go into the world and make your mark. It will be hard. You will be ignored. You will probably fail. No one is coming to your door to give you money or an award.
The worst advice was also in art school, in 1990, and it was more of a definitive statement made by a Critical Theories professor. He said, “Painting is Dead” then just sat there and smiled. It was the single stupidest thing I’ve ever heard uttered by a professor. The was BEFORE Pop Surrealism even got started, so he was wrong I guess!
In order to get a better understanding of the personality of an artist, it can help to get a peek behind the curtain. Would you be willing to share a story from your own life, possibly one whose memory you find yourself returning to for inspiration, or maybe just a tale about a hardship you’ve overcome which has helped define the person and therefore artist that you are now?
I gave up on art once. I stopped painting after 6 years of art school. It wasn’t fun and I forgot what I even liked about doing it in the first place. I turned to music and was in a band for a few years instead, and I slowly started feeling creativity creep back in. But too much intellectualism about art while you are making it can make you self-conscious and unable to create at all. It is the death of instinct. That’s why I always start my studio days by playing some music, its a way to honor the Gods and Goddesses of Rock and Roll that remind us to trust creativity and don’t question it too much.
If you could own one piece of art from any of the world’s collections what would it be and why?
Anything by Leonora Carrington, but I really love ‘Operation Wednesday’. She represents part of a lineage of Women Surrealists that is being kind of forgotten about, and I would love to keep that lineage alive. There is an entire forgotten history of art by women, and it’s a gaping hole in Art History.
What’s next for Camille Rose Garcia?
I’m working on stop-motion animation and filmmaking, so that is an exciting new development! Thank you so much for your wonderful and thoughtful questions!