Camilla d’Errico on Women’s Sexuality and The Challenges of Being a Successful Artist

To coincide with International Women’s Day, contemporary pop surrealist painter Camilla d’Errico joins us for a conversation about her latest print editions for 1xRUN, her influences in comics, and the push for women’s equality in the art industry. Boobees is a cutting commentary that questions why women’s breasts are used by many as target for sexualization and belittlement. Read our exclusive interview below.

Photo by Brittney Berner

1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about this piece, anything immediate you would like us to highlight about this image?
Camilla d’Errico:
The tits, I’d say the tits. I literally put a bullseye on her tits, so obviously I think the most prominent feature is her breasts. I made this the dominant feature of this painting because women’s sexuality is always targeted. Either women’s breasts have to be perfect, or people don’t want to see them. To be acceptable in art, women must either be perfect or nothing at all, is the message I’m critiquing. I find it offensive and discriminatory that men can show their bare chests and women can’t. A woman can be attracted to men’s chests. But when men are attracted to women’s, the women are punished for it by being labeled unacceptable. I feel strongly that nudity doesn’t equal pornography. There’s so much figure art in Europe, people are accustomed to the human body, male and female, being normal. And I think North America could learn a lot from that perspective.

1x: Is this piece a part of an ongoing series, show or group, or was it created for this particular collection for International Women’s Day?
This piece was created for Juxtapoz x Spoke Art Gallery’s FEMME group exhibition, March 2019, exploring women’s sexuality in art.

1x: Tell us about your execution of this image. What materials were used, how much time did it take?
The original is a water soluble oil painting on wood panel. It took me two and a half weeks to create. I think the challenge was to make the breasts look both realistic and surreal. Painting two different skin tones in one figure was challenging, to make it look like the pattern was part of her skin and not applied on top. Another challenge was to get over my own anxiety about painting a nude, and so poignantly to its theme. I’ve been criticized in the past for painting nudes, and it’s challenging to get over the discouragement.

1x: What is unique about this piece compared to your other work?
Maybe that I sought to objectify the form with this piece to give the message, that’s different for me. This was an intense piece, and a shocking concept. After creating it, it was really liberating. Because the reaction people had was they loved it. It did exactly what I was hoping it would do: to be enjoyed and seen for what it is with the concept. That women’s sexuality and bodies are beautiful and emotional, not lewd. It’s meant to empower women.

1x: What were your earliest interactions with art growing up?
Watching cartoons in the 80s. He-Man and She-Ra, Care Bears, and Rainbow Bright..There’s such a surreal aspect to all those cartoons, when you think about it. Cartoons are so imaginative. These characters live in worlds made of rainbows and clouds, and yet they have so much humanity and morality. I learned a lot from cartoons back in the 80s.

“Conan The Barbarian” artboard by John Buscema and Ernie Chan. Vol. I, Issue #115.

1x: Who was a prominent figure that played a major role in your formation as an artist?
I would say John Buscema, who worked on Conan comics. He was the artist who taught me to work with passion as an artist, to push through the criticisms, deadlines, people not paying you, etc. That art shouldn’t be about making money, but about doing something that you love.

1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist?
Everything. The biggest challenges are actually what I’m going through now. It’s the way other people visualize art by prioritizing what sells, and needing to make money. The pressure to try to figure out what people want vs. creating art for the passion. That every time you create a painting you’re taking a huge risk, because your livelihood depends on it. Every time I create something, it’s terrifying to think, ‘What if it’s not successful?’. But I can’t create my art like that, if there’s no emotional point to it. As John Buscema taught me, I need to follow the passion. And if I don’t have that, there’s no point to being an artist. One of the challenges outside creativity is social media, and the corporate forces that run it. It has taken the joy out of sharing, and now it’s all an algorithm. And you need to hope and pray that what you’re doing gets seen at all. Not everybody’s online anymore. Now, if only 10% of my followers even see my posts, it makes social sharing harder than it needs to be. Social media has turned into exactly what I hated about my struggle with my painting practice years ago. When I was expected to make gallery art to please masses. I hated that. I almost quit painting entirely because of it. Now I’m in the same position with social media, but I can’t just quit, because my business depends on it. Success on social media should depend on the people, not algorithms, to validate them.

1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more or less accepting or equitable for women-identifying artists?
The thing that’s amazing about the art industry now is that there’s women in it, which hasn’t always been the case in the past. Women are accepted in the industry. The industry isn’t based on gender, it’s based on talent. I feel very lucky to be an artist born in this time. I think 100 years ago it wouldn’t have been the same.

1x: What are changes that you would like to see?
I’d like to see more equal representation for artists in different places in their practice. Nowadays, it feels like only artists who are already doing well are able to keep doing well. Media outlets only want to highlight what’s popular already in order to generate clicks, views, likes, and returns. It’s harder than ever to have breakout artists and ideas succeed when outlets want to play it safe, featuring what’s the most popular already.

1x: What does a balanced art industry look like to you?
I would love for everyone to have the same opportunities. For outlets like magazines or galleries not to play favorites. The world itself might take more notice. The world takes more notice of modern and contemporary art, but doesn’t put much spotlight on Pop Surrealism. To me, balance would be to have our art in movies, on TV and in museums. What gets focused on more is artists who have passed away, but I’d like for the world to be seeing living artists more. I’d love for museums to take us seriously and have our art on display. There are so many talented, incredible artists out there right now. Museums all over the world should be showcasing more of what’s here now, instead of prioritizing artists who’ve passed away. The imbalance in valuation of art is something I’d like to see corrected: how some paintings are worth millions and many others don’t sell for over $1,000.00. I would love to see balance, see everyone get a chance for visibility and opportunities. In an idealistic world, I’d want every artist to have a shot at being featured in a mural on the side of a building, and have a world filled with art.

1x: What artists have inspired you in the past? Who are some woman-identifying artists that inspire you today?
A lot of manga artists are female. The creator of Sailor Moon is probably hands-down my biggest inspiration. She created a whole universe that empowered women and girls to save the planet. She was one of my biggest inspirations growing up. And getting into the art industry, I‘ve always loved Audrey Kawasaki. Not only because she’s female, but because her art is so exquisite. I love Amy Sol; her work is so serene and peaceful. Marina Bychkova of Enchanted Doll, her dolls are just, oh my god. I’m speechless thinking about her dolls. They’re so stunning.

1x: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
Work really, really, really hard. It’s not easy. None of this is easy. We can be the biggest critics of our own art, so don’t get in your own way. I don’t like my art as I’m creating it. I want to break some of the paintings in half. But just finish, and get through it and put it out there. Do it fearlessly. You can’t let fear stop you from expressing yourself. I know it’s hard to ignore that, but go for it!

Follow Camilla d’Errico on Instagram at @camilladerrico.