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November 16, 2006

{     Interview : Camille Rose Garcia     }    

I have been noticing the work of Camille Rose Garcia for the last few years now and appreciate it as amazing art, but it wasn't until I sat down with her over a few cups of coffee in New York City that I was able to fully appreciate all the meaning behind it. Camille is not only the most down to earth person you will ever meet but she is also the most globally aware. She is very much about her causes while still maintaining this child-like optimism. Camille has done everything from snowboard graphics to children's book illustration and various other projects in between, but don't expect to see much commercial work coming out of her anytime soon as she has found her true calling thru her paintings and hand-made toys. I can honestly say the world would be better off if it would adopt the same ideals and core values as Camille Rose Garcia. Take a read and hear what she had to say.

Manuel: So Camille, tell me a little bit about your life from childhood till now.
Well, I was born in Los Angeles. Both my parents are artists; they met in art school in San Francisco. They were both painters. Then they went down to Peru with the Peace Corps and did that kinda stuff. So I grew up in a really artsy, cool family, even though my parents got divorced when I was like one, then it was kinda just me, my mom and my sister. So my mom kinda schooled me a lot. I started working with her when I was about 17, painting murals and stuff. She taught me a lot about mixing paint and things like that. Then later on I went to art school and learned a lot of that kind of stuff but I really started a lot sooner than that. So yeah, I grew up in LA, then moved to Orange County when I was about 5 and that was super weird, (laughs) It was all white, creepy suburbs / Edward Scissorhands. My mom was French and German but my dad was Mexican, so we were like the poor brown children, ya know: girls all "oh, is your last name Garcia?" and the usual shaky racism stuff. So yeah, Orange County to me and like Huntington Beach were kinda different because I wasn't really sporty, more angsty and depressed. Then I started going to see bands when I was like 13,14. Bands like The Vandals, x, never saw The Germs because he died before I could, DOA, and Social Distortion. Chuck Biscuits who was like the raddest drummer on earth, he was in this band with my boyfriend at the time so they ended up playing in our garage so I got to watch ‘em play after school when I was like 15 so that was really awesome, but then they all turned into heroin addicts so I was “ok, this is really creepy.” Then, when I graduated from high school I flew back to LA to go to art school, by the time I got to college I was totally sober. (laughs) Then went to grad school in San Francisco, oh, and I was in a band for a while too. It was called "The Real Minks". This was post grad school and it was awesome. After grad school I was just so sick of academics and, you know, talking about art, it just drove me insane talking about art all the time. So I was just like "I just wanna be in a punk rock band". That’s really all I wanted to do and I was really, really poor so I had to move back to Orange County for a while. I was like "aww, fuck art, I'm not even gonna do it anymore". So I did the band for about two years and didn't really do any art during that time. So some time passed and I saw the Clayton Brothers and Mark Rydens work and I kinda got re-inspired. I was like, “wow, that’s awesome,” and I was already doing a lot of that kinda stuff and narrative- based stuff in collage. Everyone was doing blobby painting and minimalism, modernism stuff and I just had no relation to it at all; I had a lot of people tell me that what I was doing, "that’s not art," so when I started seeing these LA artists doing the kind of stuff that I was already doing anyway, I was like, “ok.” I quit the band and told myself "I am going to start painting again." So the LA scene became really great all at once, all these LA artists starting doing that kind of work. I don't really know why it was so LA-based, still haven't really figured that part out, but I think it was that the world was ready to see something more fun come out of art.

M: Tell me about your home in LA.
Its awesome, I live in Bachelor Park which is near Silver Lake. It's in the Hills.

M: Jeremy was telling me something about the wood-burning hot-tube.
(laughs) We are total weed smoking tree huggers. My mom’s whole side of the family grew up in a cabin in northern California that my grandpa built up in the redwoods with like 7 brothers and sisters, so I used to go up there every summer when I was little. So I just feel really inspired when I am out in nature (laughs). But yeah, Jeremy put in this wood-burning hot tube that sounds like some creepy nudist camp thing, but it’s totally rad. The whole time he was doing it I was like "this is so overindulgent, we are never even gonna use this thing." But it really is the raddest thing. It smells like cedar and it is totally quiet and we live up on the hill so its got this amazing view of the city and stuff.

M: How do you think growing up in the So-Cal punk scene has affected your thinking and in what ways has it influenced your art?
I think I have always approached art making in the same way as a lot of my favorite bands. Bands like The Clash and the Dead Kennedy's make this really rad music that in some cases sounds really fun, but still has a social commentary. I wasn't seeing that a lot in art of my generation, even though it has always existed throughout time through German expressionists and a lot of Mexican artists kept that social commentary, while making art that the average person on the street could understand. I always wanted to do art that people could relate to but also carry some social relevance. Like in art school it wasn't really about commentary, or if it was, it was really boring, so I really just wanted to create art that was not only super fun to look at, and if you’re 5 or 15 and hated art your still could like, and relate to it and understand and would still carry that whole social political commentary, which is kinda the same approach that a lot of my favorite bands were taking.

M: What kind of punk projects have you done over the years and do you have anything going on currently?
Well I have a lot of talk rock bands in the works, thats kind of a band that you just talk about, but never really practice or play, you make up your name and design your posters in your head. We could start one if you want... you just gotta come up with the name. No, but my next punk rock project is.... well, I have always had this fantasy of just dropping out and becoming a hermit and just not even really talking or caring about talking to anybody. I mean what's more punk than that? Just like oh, Rolling Stone called and they wanted to interview, for x amount of dollars and to just be like, “I don't care how much they want to pay me, I am not doing it.” I mean, it’s rad right now because I have a achieved a certain level of success with my art and the fans and collectors are all so great, but it’s overwhelming sometimes. I do need time to do my art, so I just have to say no to a lot of stuff. Its hard when it's a good cause like a school or something that’s good, ya know?

M: Being that political topics are pretty regular themes in your work, what are your thoughts on American foreign politics and foreign policies?
(laughs) Well that’s a good giant loaded question. Um, I think at this point the ideals of the states, it’s like yeah you can march in the street and show up for protests but since they are not really representing the will of the people it just doesn't really do anything. I don't know how to switch on that level. I mean in the 60s, that actually worked, protesting in the streets, but then the CIA kinda figured it out through crowd control and propaganda. So once they figure all that out it was like, “ok that technique doesn't really work anymore.” What I think is really going to happen is the whole global economy is going to crash. It seems like that’s how its going to be, which in a way could be a good thing in terms of global warming and that kind of thing. Because at the same time once all the oil runs out and stuff stops being so overly-produced and people stop selling and buying and manufacturing and all that kinda stuff, let the Earth recover a little bit, we may be able to buy ourselves a few more years. But I don't know it might already be too late. It seems like total global chaos for the next few years or for some time. To me it just seems that things are getting worse and worse faster and faster. As far as the whole machine of keeping people scared, they don’t rebel if they are scared, it’s just part of the control mechanism. Then there is all the stuff that is real. I don’t really think all the terror warnings are real, but the global warming is real, the huge deficit is real, the end of oil is real, all those things are real. But the terror alerts, I don't know how much of that is real and it’s an easy way for our leaders to blame them. I just think, on a very basic personal, spiritual level if every person would take some responsibility, ya know, as far as being cool with others and not being an asshole. That’s the only real revolution that I think is possible at this point.

M: Since you have grown up in such an anti-establishment atmosphere, how does that influence you in the way you choose your more commercial projects?
I am always really on the fence about it, and as of right now I am not really doing any commercial projects. For a while I was doing illustration as a way of just making money but now I don’t really have to. Unless it’s something like Jello Biafra and The Melvins, I just did their record cover. That was a really fun project. I also did this thing for Converse, but I was like, “ok, I wear those,” so it was cool because its something I wear. But then the same advertising company was like "we want you to do something for Sprite, we are looking to market it towards inner city kids.” I thought that was the most evil thing ever. I don't even drink soda and couldn't believe they were asking me to do it with the horrible obesity in children. They shouldn't even be selling soda to children. So I told ‘em "No, I can't be a part of that." But it is hard, even with the vinyl toys. I am really not into the stuff that is made in china. I am more into things that are locally made and made responsibly. But nowadays everything is made in China. Everything! I am finally at the point now where I can make those choices, some other artists might be in the position where its like, ok you need the money and I cant hold that against anyone else but for me personally, I am trying to choose projects that I find to be more socially responsible or that I use or like. But if it’s something that I don't stand for, I just wont do it. I don't care how much money I just will not do it.

M: Some of your work has a very vintage cartoon look to it, much like Felix the Cat, Betty Boop and others. How much inspiration did you get from all the early cartoon illustrators?
Yeah, when I was like 4 or 5 I would just obsessively draw Felix, Bugs Bunny, Betty Boop over and over. That was the first narrative art that I really became interested in. I guess I have never really grown outta that, you know what I mean? There was a phase in high school I kinda did but then I eventually came back to it. The rad thing about cartoons from that era was that these illustrators were really smart and they took a real long time to make these things. It was such a craft and they had so much social, political commentary in there cartoons, even then. There were all those Warner Brothers cartoons against Hitler; you could never do it now, but yeah, I really love that narrative quality that can speak to any age group.

M: Considering the recent acknowledgment from some of the more high brow art critics, where do you see the low-brow art scene going in the next few years, and do you feel like all the attention is good, or do you in some ways think it might lead to over- commercialization?
I think that a lot of the artists doing this kind of work right now have come from a commercial arena, so for a lot of the artists it’s not really a huge stretch to be like “ok, I am doing a Nike commercial.” I think part of the problem with that There is not a lot of funding for art through the government. So a lot of the financial backing for some of these cool projects will come from these big corporations, so it’s really hard to separate if they are the enemy or they are supporting you. But with the high art thing, I think its good; any attention an artist gets if their work is good, then I think it’s good. Whatever helps them sell their work and support themselves and allows them to do what they need to do is great. But now that there is this whole subculture through websites and stuff, a lot of the museums are stepping up because a lot of the general public may not be that into this fine art show. But there are still those who it’s still this invisible scene to. It’s kind of this parallel universe in some ways where they still want to hold onto the keys to the kingdom but it’s not really possible because of the web and things. Whereas in the past they were able to control all of that, now it’s just not possible.

M: Along with a lot of artists, you have been doing a lot of vinyl toys. How did you personally get involved with the toy industry and what goes into the toys from concept to completion? How much involvement do you actually have aside from just concept design?
I have made toys from the time I was a little girl and with most of the shows I have done I usually make these handmade toys, so I was really excited when the whole artists’ toys took off. It’s a great medium for some of these artists to have, something that someone can buy without being an art buyer. I do think it would be cool if some of the stuff was made not all out of vinyl. You know, there are other ways to make things. I mean, personally I like fabric and wood and paper toys better than vinyl. But regardless of that, I think it’s a real fun and exciting thing, because it’s mostly character based, and you cant really make a toy out of a Jackson Pollack painting. I don't think that would really work. There is a lot of controversy, people claiming it’s not art, but I think they’re rad. I think it’s awesome to have toys, books, shirts, just all around cool merch. If we were in Japan it would not even be a question, that’s just how it’s done, there isn't really that separation. But again going back to the high art question, in that world even to have a website is considered tacky and weird. It just seems like a silly classicism thing to me. This is not the same era as it was 50 years ago and I think that it’s really exciting. I just personally would like to see a bit more diversity in the way they are manufactured. Some sort of cast recycled plastic would be rad. I mean I have made the one set. I was asked by a friend of mine in LA. But I would like to do some more dolls, but something that is not vinyl.

M: When you make the vinyl dolls, what went into actual creation?
Well, I did drawings of them from all 4 sides and then they got sent to a sculptor, and then they get sent of to China and they make a model and I figure out the colors. But it’s really a hard process for me because I am so hands-on and a bit of a control freak about my books, my invites, everything. If there is something not quite right with a project that I was involved in then I get really upset, and those toys have this small issue where they just don't really stand up so well all the time and they fall over because their heads are really big and it really kinda bugs me. If I could have been there, I would have made sure that it just didn't happen but there was no way for me to do that. Next time, because I do want to do more toys with other mediums aside from vinyl.

M: You recently put out your book, "The Saddest Place on Earth." What went into that and why the title?
If you were from Orange County you would probably get the reference immediately. I grew up in Orange County real close to Disneyland, and when I was a kid I could go for like 5 bucks or something really, really cheap so I would seriously go every week for like years. I was totally, totally obsessed. The slogan for Disneyland is “the happiest place on Earth,” So I was just kinda writing about it and the contrast of that part of OC and the other part, which is where I lived and just how, like everyone that I knew was a total fucked-up drug addict, going nowhere, depressed, with this perfect veneer of suburbia, but everyone had the same fucked-up problems that they would have in the inner city. There is no hiding that stuff, people were still desperate and depressed and it’s almost more compounded with environments like that. So it was the contrast of going to Disneyland and then going back to my home life and having it seem like such a mess. So thinking about titles for the book, I just thought that would be hilarious. Then, to think about it, where is the saddest place on earth? In an unrealistic way, it’s kind of glorifying. Like, what if there was like a TV show and the whole plot was "hey let’s try to find the saddest place on earth,” and that would be their journey. But I mean, really, that the saddest place on earth is in your mind.

M: Your work seems to have some more than dark undertones but still seems to carry this underlining sense of magic and joy which is what I find so appealing. Tell me about your most magical day in recent history.
Oh, recent history, its today! Because it’s the first day I don't have anything to do. The past three years have just been insane. I just finished the show at Jonathan Levine Gallery yesterday and I am going to Hawaii for a week and just be all Big Lebowski for a week. So even though I am all hung-over after the party we went to last night, all wrecked, this is the happiest day since I just have no pressure.

M: On a personal note I met your husband Jeremy, who is super cool, last night, so I had to ask, do you guys have any plans for starting a family?
Oh, that’s so cute. It’s funny you would ask. It’s totally been on my mind this past year. But there is this weird, kinda this unspoken thing that people don't talk about but for men it’s easy to just continue working and their work can still go on, But for woman artists it’s a little different because my body is going to do it. But yeah, like I was saying before, that is something I really want to do... soon.

M: Other than that what does the next chapter hold for Camille Rose Garcia?
Um, hermit, tree hugging, Lebowski, surfer, maybe move to Hawaii, starting my own toy company: made responsibly in California, handmade and real small runs. Really just keep doing what I do and get ready for the next show.

Images: Merry Karnowsky Gallery, Jonathan LeVine Gallery
Special thanks: Camille Rose Garcia, Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Merry Karnowsky, Marc Schiller and Jeremy of course.

Interview by: Manuel Bello

You can see more work by Camille at:



i love camille's work. this is a wonderful interview

Posted by: musicisart at November 27, 2006 7:06 PM

fantastic work!

Posted by: Nate Williams at November 29, 2006 1:22 AM

te amo

Posted by: marianne at December 5, 2006 5:10 PM

wow!....I am SUCH a BIG FAN!!!!!
I too am an ex-punk rocker who is beginning to paint!
YOU ARE SUCH an inspiration Camille,...
"This ones for the TREES!!!"

Posted by: inger lorre at December 10, 2006 5:12 AM

Camille's work is amazing, rock out girl!

Posted by: elesavet at January 10, 2007 2:53 AM

wow heard of your page happy i did would like to see more plz wright back i am enjoying the pain of the beauty of your paintings

Posted by: angela at April 17, 2007 2:40 AM

I’m a big fan of your work – great stuff- a real inspiration to my own folio that I‘m working on, and I found this interview really insightful. I too am a REALLY big fan of Mark Ryden and the Clayton Brothers so its funny how they first inspired you.
-hoping one day I will be able to go to one of your shows.

Posted by: Scarlett at May 1, 2007 8:20 AM

really like your work and the worlds you create.

Posted by: Nate Williams at September 24, 2007 1:16 AM

Good design, who make it?

Posted by: naisioxerloro at November 28, 2007 9:16 PM

I am in love with you and your art. I wish I could begin to afford any of it. Why don't you make a movie or cartoon of The Saddest Place on Earth, it would be the best movie ever made. I enjoy wonderful people like you, keep it up.

Posted by: Anthony Rickard at March 20, 2008 2:02 AM

I am in love with you and your art. I wish I could begin to afford any of it. Why don't you make a movie or cartoon of The Saddest Place on Earth, it would be the best movie ever made. I enjoy wonderful people like you, keep it up.

Posted by: Anthony Rickard at March 20, 2008 2:02 AM


Posted by: iniyavan at July 8, 2008 1:27 PM

tks for the effort you put in here I appreciate it!

Posted by: MichaellaS at July 21, 2009 3:28 PM

Watch One Piece Episode 214 Online!

Posted by: abraddeCt at August 23, 2009 12:31 AM

i luv ur artwork its so cool and its so creepy i absolutly LOVE it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Taylor Wooton at December 10, 2009 3:32 PM

Camille....i love my canvas, ilove ur artwork, and ilove u!

Posted by: dhini ariesta at May 18, 2010 7:31 AM
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