Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
by Camille Rose Garcia"I've seen this girl!" a woman at the Grand Central opening Saturday exclaimed to her friend. "She's in Juxtapoz!"
Camille Rose Garcia is Juxtapoz magazine's latest great hope. Young, glamorous and with all the hipster cred anyone could possibly ask for—and with a particular affinity for black-eyed death and dismemberment—she's the sharp edge of LA lowbrow cool.
Which is nice.
When Sympathy for the Record Industry's hermitic legend Long Gone John is at your Grand Central Art Center opening, you know you're filling a Gen-X-turbulent-creative niche. In this case, it's for the tuberculitic, big-eyed waif descended from Margaret Keane and recently reborn in the Victorian death wagons of Mark Ryden. Garcia gives us all our SoCal indie grown-punk touchstones: there's Disneyland, a little bit of Becca (with her little girls with bony knees in peril), even X is invoked, with I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts. All that's missing is a paean to the Go-Go's, but they might be a bit sprightly for Garcia's tastes. I know they are for mine.
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Garcia doesn't do sprightly. Her vision of Disney—dead Dumbos and zombified Bambis, while her Peppermint Men are as sinister as Jack Nicholson in The Shining—is more in line with Jeff Gillette's slum Disneylands than with shiny happy Pocahontas. Meanwhile, her little-girls-lost—her line-drawn heroines are cartoon girls fashioned from a mix of Betty Boop, Natasha from Bullwinkle and Gwen Stefani (or maybe it's Kim Gordon)—never meet their prince. They stay lost, in miasmic forests and gelatinous seas. Their bodies slump with plague and tumors and drug addiction and medicated depression. Their mouths slaver black ink as they're chased by octopuses and missile/penis-shaped squid and cupcake men filled with sedative microbes from outer space, and they have legs as long and curvy as the Great Wall of China. Juxtapoz couldn't ask for more than that—unless the little girls drove a car that had been pinstriped.
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But despite everyone at the opening who swooned at Garcia's work—and it was one of those Artists Village First Saturdays that was actually raging—I remained underwhelmed. Her drawings are fluid and sweeping (sometimes seemingly drawn from Hollywood fashion illustrations of the '30s), her storyboards for her creepy tales enjoyably Burtonesque, and her concentrated disdain for the War Machine (always in capital letters) and brain scrubbings from Big Pharmacy right up my alley.
I just preferred the paintings across the hall, in Grand Central's Rental Gallery. Rather than Garcia's neutral two-tone palettes, Matthew J. Price's Ryden knockoffs were rendered in potent, dreamy hues with almost impressionist brush strokes, while Christiane Cegavske's nasty Alice in Wonderland dreams featured giant mice in red livery sewing a woman's labia shut and taking shears to her creamy breasts. If you're going to go death and dismemberment and tragic kingdoms, really, you should go all the way.
"THE SADDEST PLACE ON EARTH: THE ART OF CAMILLE ROSE GARCIA" AT THE GRAND CENTRAL ART CENTER, 125 N. BROADWAY, SANTA ANA, (714) 567-7233. OPEN TUES.-SUN., 11 A.M.-4 P.M.; FRI.-SAT., 11 A.M.-7 P.M. THROUGH DEC. 18.
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