Camille Rose Garcia: Down the Rabbit Hole

May 9–November 3, 2013

Since its publication in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been reinterpreted visually in a wide-range of artistic styles and media, including as a Disney animated film in 1951. More than half a century later, artist Camille Rose Garcia has updated the enduring classic with her distinctive illustrations that capture a young girl’s surreal adventures after following a rabbit down a hole. This exhibition features some 40 works by Garcia alongside seven concept paintings for the 1951 film by Disney artist Mary Blair. Down the Rabbit Hole celebrates not only the artistry of these two women across decades and styles, but also the power of art to draw us into magical worlds.

In Garcia’s goth-inspired book illustrations, Alice’s encounters with the March Rabbit, Mad Hatter and Red Queen are shown in quirky renditions of Carroll’s story set against colorful backdrops. With her conscious disregard of perspective or scale in her compositions, Garcia creates a fresh and contemporary depiction of the dreamlike tale.

Garcia’s illustrations draw not only from a goth sensibility, but also the thriving “lowbrow art” movement in Los Angeles and its references to classic cartoons, 1960s TV sitcoms, rock music, and comic books. However, in keeping with Carroll’s intended audience and the spirit of Walt’s film, the illustrations appeal to all ages.

Mary Blair is often credited with introducing modern art to the Disney studio. Her work was very adventurous for the time period (1940s and 1950s) in the use of asymmetrical shapes to illustrate animals and create dynamic and visually compelling scenes. Of the many films she contributed to, Alice most strongly bears Blair’s artistic stamp in its bright colors and all-encompassing imagery.

 “Blair and Garcia may have half a century separating them, but they both were carving out new territory. Blair was one of the few women in the animation business; her position a credit to Disney’s foresight. Garcia’s aesthetics have pushed illustration further into the art world and brought it to the attention of a new, younger generation,” says exhibition guest curator Tere Romo.

Garcia has said of their artistic connection: “The original John Tenniel illustrations were always some of my favorites and those were definitely lodged in my head. I wanted to stay true to his vision but I’m so influenced by Disney. I loved the backgrounds in their early movies (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio), so I watched a lot of those films to try to get more of a color feel. They were all done in the 1930s with watercolor, which has that very classic touch. Using watercolors referred back to the Tenniel work, but I added a little bit of a modern gothic touch as well. That was my vision for the work.” (Los Angeles Times, 2010)

About Camille Rose Garcia

Camille Rose Garcia was born in 1970 in Los Angeles, California. The child of a Mexican activist filmmaker father and a muralist/painter mother, she apprenticed at age 14, working on murals with her mother while growing up in the generic suburbs of Orange County, often visiting Disneyland where she would derive inspiration. Her works blend nostalgic pop culture references with a satirical slant on modern society.

Garcia received her MFA from the University of California at Davis in 1994 and her BFA from Otis College of Art and Design in 1992. Garcia’s work has been shown internationally and has been featured in numerous publications, including Juxtapoz, Rolling Stone, and Modern Painters.  Her work is also included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum and the San Jose Museum of Art, which held a retrospective of her work, Tragic Kingdom, in 2007.

About Mary Blair

An imaginative color stylist and designer, Mary Blair helped introduce modern art to Walt Disney and his studio, and for nearly 30 years he touted her inspirational work for his films and theme parks alike. Animator Marc Davis, who put Blair’s innovative use of color on a par with Matisse, recalled, “She brought modern art to Walt in a way that no one else did. He was so excited about her work.”

Born in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1911, Blair won a scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. After graduation in 1933, at the height of the Depression, she took a job in the animation unit of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) rather than pursue her dream of a fine arts career. In 1940 she joined The Walt Disney Studios and worked on a number of projects, including the never-produced “Baby Ballet,” part of a proposed second version of Fantasia.

In 1941 Blair joined the Disney expedition that toured Mexico and South America for three months. On the tour she painted watercolors that inspired Walt to name her art supervisor on The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos. Her unique color and styling greatly influenced many Disney postwar productions, including Alice in Wonderland, Song of the South, Make Mine Music, Melody Time, So Dear to My Heart, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, and Peter Pan.  

In 1964 Walt asked Blair to assist in the design of the It’s a Small World attraction at Disneyland. Over the years, she contributed to the design of many exhibits, attractions, and murals at the theme parks in California and Florida, including the fanciful murals in the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary Hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort. Blair died July 26, 1978, in Soquel, California.

Camille Rose Garcia: Down the Rabbit Hole is organized by The Walt Disney Family Museum. Media sponsor: Juxtapoz