This past weekend, Camille Rose Garcia gave an artist talk at San Francisco’s Walt Disney Family Museum. The chat coincided with Down the Rabbit Hole, a new exhibition of over 40 original concept artworks and murals Garcia created for the 2010 HarperCollins edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
I’m not typically one to purchase multiple iterations of Disney classics, but Garcia’s Alice marked the 2nd artist edition Alice in Wonderland book I’ve bought this year. (For something different and yet not necessarily dissimilar, take a look at Yayoi Kusama’s delightfully dotty Wonderland here.)
Venturing Down the Rabbit Hole with Camille Rose Garcia at the Disney Museum was a perfect match. A frequent attendee at Disneyland in her youth, Garcia’s work often expresses the polarity between The Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland) and The Saddest Place on Earth (Everywhere Else). Tere Romo curated the exhibition and also mediated the artist talk. Alas, I have only been to Florida’s Disney World, and not California’s Disneyland. Whereas the former is a popular East Coast family vacation spot, the latter seems akin to a religious experience for my West Coast friends. (If anyone wants to sponsor me on a missionary trip to Disneyland, clickety-click here.)
While Garcia also illustrated an edition of Disney’s Snow White, it’s clear she had a special connection to Alice. During the chat, Garcia talked about how unusual it would have been in the late 1800s to have a character like Alice: a strong female hero-child who also questioned authority. Garcia mentioned being captivated by Lewis Carroll’s dreamlike, surrealist prose that seemed to get at the stranger examples of our reality. Like Carroll’s books, Garcia’s artistic universe is filled with symbolic storytelling and non-linear narratives.
I took some notes during the Q&A, and this was one of my favorites. When asked how she went from being a great artist to a great artist who is also known, Camille Rose Garcia replied: “Ball’s out persistence!” And then: “If I get rejected from anything, I just pretend people are crazy.” Love it!
I love when artists use their canvases to critique and communicate about our world. Garcia talked about the difficulties of reconciling life in a capitalist society with the desire to live sustainably. I even raised my hand to ask a question. (And no, it wasn’t “Why is a raven like a writer’s desk?”) From her sharp critique of “Pharmaceuticools” in 2004 to the altered states of Wonderland, I wondered about the drug culture themes in her work. She spoke openly about her belief that Big Pharma isn’t here to help us get better (but rather to create lifelong addicts and paying customers) and recommended reading Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic. With mental illness on the rise, maybe Crown Publishing Group will release an artist edition of the book, complete with illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia! (A drug art blogger can dream!) For the trippier part of the drug inquiry–think ‘shrooms– pick up the latest Juxtapoz.)
Down the Rabbit Hole at the Disney Family Museum is open through November 3rd, and you should definitely go see the amazing drippy, watercolor work on the purple walls! Garcia returns this Fall for additional related events. (Check the calendar.) Special jewels and baubles featuring Camille Rose Garcia’s Alice in Wonderland artwork are now available at the Disney store, and they accept phone orders. (Details here.)