In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how creative freedom enables LA-based artists to make spiritual work as part of their practices.
A pastiche of vintage animation, avant-garde cinema, cut-up fairy tales, and horror movies, Camille Rose Garcia’s aesthetic is a subtle satire woven into dystopian narratives. Garcia is a trailblazer in the lowbrow/pop surrealism movement first spawned by custom-car culture in Los Angeles. Her latest series, Phantasmacabre, is inspired by Carl Jung’s analytical psychology, goth aesthetics, and the symbolic films of spiritual maestro Alejandro Jodorowsky. Rendered symmetrically like rorschach tests, Garcia's most recent images explore the natural cycles of decay and rebirth, as well as the profound mysteries behind unconscious manifestations.
As childhoods go, Garcia's mirrors those of many others who've had the dubious fortune of growing up in LA: the early excitement of living near Hollywood, the ensuing disillusion over being raised in the culturally barren suburbs, and the adult-age return to the throes of the city in order to rekindle and fuel dormant creativity.
Garcia's artist mother taught her how to paint murals, sowing the seeds for Garcia's career as an artist. After attending Otis Parsons (now just Otis) in LA, Garcia's career has been steady with a stream of exhibitions, illustrations, and books, all of which chronicle her own creative development as well as the evolution of the lowbrow scene. "That movement evolved out of an embrace of comics, cartoons, illustration, and all of the art forms that were kind of marginalized by the high art world," she tells The Creators Project.
"LA is such an open concept, there are no inherent traditions, and it is truly a land of make-believe," she continues. "You can imagine and then do, without the burden of history or expectation or tradition. The false linear progression of art history turns into a sphere with no beginning or end point. Therefore, anything is possible. Also the light is really good."
Garcia usually begins with writing and chronicling her vivid dreams in order to understand their symbolism. Working with acrylic and glitter, she then paints a series of see-through layers on wood panels, which combine to reveal different patterns and symbols. "It’s a slow process, like planting a garden and watching it grow and change over time," says Garcia. "The interesting thing about the way I paint is that nothing is ever done, they just stop in interesting places."
Garcia's swirly, psychedelic works are illustrative yet painterly; expressive yet expressionistic. Phantasmacabre, however, is more than just something Garcia describes as "surrealist dreamscapes." The paintings are imbued with subtle social criticism of human disenfranchisement from the environment.
As someone of Yaqui Native American descent, Garcia feels passionately about the magic of nature, and laments the displacement of LA's ecology to concrete commerciality. "I believe we are part of nature, not separate from it, and we can communicate with plants and animals, but we have forgotten how. Because of this disassociation with our relationship to everything else, I think humans are lost and don’t understand their relationship to nature. Viewing everything (plants, land, people, animals, etc.) as 'resources' to be exploited is a terrible mistake. I think religion is a construct invented by humans to impose control over our animal selves, our 'savage' natures. But there is really nothing more savage than 'civilization.' […] The magic is there if we respect and preserve it. If we disregard and destroy it, I don’t really see anything spiritual in that at all.”