In your new collection for Corey Helford Gallery entitled “Hide and Seek” you highlight what appears to be a sweet, surreal fairy tale world but with a deeper look we see a contradictory, darker side explored. What inspired you to create this series?
My series for Corey Helford Gallery is about identity, what we show, what we hide, plays with the suggestion coming from the words “seek”/“hide”. In this series, the girls are trying to disguise themselves with masks and acting. Reality is banned in its rational form and so it came back in the form of a disturbing unconscious nightmare that inflates and animates toys. A sense of threat runs around the girls I represent. They’re alone, all they want is someone to play with. Common toys, on the other hand, perceive them as a menacing entity to expel from their world. By then it’s difficult to understand exactly if this is a product of a corrupted fantasy or reality itself has corrupted the fantasy. It’s a game of hide and seek.
You created a series of 8-new acrylic and colored pencil works on paper. Are these typical mediums you prefer or did you feel they best represented your artistic vision for this series?
This is my usual technique, acrylics, and pencils on paper. I focused on the content (identity issues) more than trying to find a new medium. My style is as always soft and cute. It looks very sweet on the surface but hides darker meaning after a deeper view. A scene may portray a struggle, a fight, there may be blood, but it is presented with a seductively shiny surface, and my characters look adorable, even if they are “freaks.” I always offer a delectable mix of repulsive and attractiveness in my images. I am not afraid to put sweetness and sentiment, along with more disturbing content. The result is a surreal fusion where childhood fairytales are recalled like in a paradoxical nightmare.
You have been illustrating dreamlike children’s books for some time now and you even won the esteemed Anderson Prize, honoring you as the best children’s book illustrator in Italy. How did you get your start in the publishing realm?
My mother was a teacher and from her, I got my love of children’s books. Growing up I simply never stopped loving the children’s universe. This lead me toward a picture book illustration job.
I found my first assignments through the Bologna Children’s book fair. That is the main fair of this kind and gathers all the best publishers worldwide. I went there with my portfolio after graduation and showed my artworks to as many publishers as possible. I still remember when I got my first children’s book commissioned from a small Italian publisher. It took two months to make it and I received about $100 for it. It was discouraging but at least it was a start. That was about 20 years ago and many books have come after it. My dream was to make a living off my passion and it came true.
You live in San Marino, Italy. Do your cultural surroundings inspire you and have an impact on your work?
My artistic background comes from Urbino, were I attended the Institute of Art for 7 years. The school was placed inside the 1500 century Ducal Palace. There, time seems to have stopped. The whole city of Urbino is an inspiration, like an open-air museum, it looks almost the same since 1500. There I discovered Renaissance masters like Paolo Uccello and Piero Della Francesca, who became some of my favorite artists. There is a classical yet modern feeling in their paintings that has always drawn me. I often refer to those two artists in my work, especially Piero’s enigmatic Madonna’s. I love the pureness and stillness in them.
What’s next for you after your show ends in September? Do you typically take a break after a show? Are you working on any upcoming projects that you are looking forward to?
I am juggling with the idea of a pop-up book for a Tuscan wine company called Campo Alle Comete, for whom I designed all the communication, including their 3-D website.