Dorielle Caimi’s artwork displays a reimagining of the classic figure. In her collection Complex Candy,Caimi is able to convey the psychological struggles women face with her interpretations of women and their raw, physical emotion. Her femininity travels through and suspends in different moments of time because it is apparent that her interpretations are inspired by early masters, but her renderings also have elements of the pressures women today face. This creates an element of globality and timelessness within femininity. This does not mean she is calling on women as simply a general group of “women”, because she points out each woman as an individual. Each painting in her collection is different and expresses a particular struggle that the woman depicted is experiencing. Caimi is reaching out to each woman, as well as each man, that steps in front of her painting to remind them that the struggles of today are felt by each woman individually as well as globally.
The craftsmanship of her work is a wonderful feast for any appreciator’s eyes. She spent different moments over the past few years working on her collection, so it is simply a treat to look for variations in her work such as a complexity of veins in one woman’s skin or an addition of blue in shading. She also changes the style in background as time goes on, moving towards a more geometric style. This week we were able to talk to her more about her art and find out what she has to say about Complex Candy:
First off, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us. We really appreciate it. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself (your childhood, how you started painting, your inspiration)?
I am a third-generation artist in my family. I’d always received a lot of support in pursuing my artistic inclinations from my parents, so I eventually decided to go to art school (Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle). After graduation, my husband and I moved back to my hometown, Albuquerque, NM, where I decided to commit to my artistic practice full-time.
Your artwork focuses on mainly on the female nude. What was your initial inspiration in choosing to portray women?
I wanted to paint a subject that I could most relate to both physically and psychologically; innately, the female form was the obvious choice. I’ve also always had a fascination with rendering human anatomy. I’ve tried departing from figurative subject matter, but the truth is nothing is as satisfying for me to paint than the figure.
Initially, I didn’t want to cloth my subjects because I didn’t want to date them with current fashion trends. I later realized that I wanted my figures to be nude as a way of observing the raw human form and the complex nature of skin, particularly that of women. My hope is to convey women as a way of respecting the wonderment of their bodies and psyches without sexualizing them.
What is your favorite medium? Has this evolved over your experience as an artist?
Without question, my favorite medium is oil. Like most artists, I started out drawing. I knew in high school that I wanted to learn how to paint in oils, so I began taking painting classes at our local community college. I’ve also worked quite a bit with collage, photography, print making, and mixed media techniques, but there is something in the buttery, rich, and forgiving nature of oils that I can’t find in any other medium. One of the ways in which I’ve seen an evolution in my practice is that I’ve become more refined and efficient in using oils. I’ve learned so many little tricks that have helped me to wield the medium with far less frustration than I had when I first started oil painting ten years ago.
What is your most meaningful or personal piece of art and why?
The most personal painting in my current body of work is “Until Proven Innocent.” This painting was a reaction/rebellion to my upbringing in a religious movement that condoned guilt and shame around human sexuality, particularly surrounding women. Growing up, I regarded my gender and sexual inclinations as a very scary thing, and learned to repress it. This painting was my way of asserting that I wasn’t going to take any more accusations, and that I was going to love my skin and myself unconditionally. On a more biblically historical note, the painting comments on how maybe Eve was wrongly accused in the Garden of Eden. What I hope this painting invokes in my viewers is a sense of power in the feminine; that it can serve as a reminder for women to stand up for themselves, be proud, and get in touch with their inner strength.
What is your main philosophy behind Complex Candy?
As my work visually explores deep personal struggle, it also tends to be somewhat satirical and humorous, thus the oxymoronic title. The idea behind Complex Candy is to take a rebellious torch to those who would interpret femininity as the ‘candy’ of society: sweet, visually appealing, and simple. I believe this is a stigma that is both placed on us by society and is also something that we’ve internalized. I hope that the show invokes a sense of empathy from its viewers for the internal and external sacrifices people make on so many different levels in today’s society.
What is your creative process when starting a painting. Are you inspired by color? By a particular figure? By an idea?
The process is never the same. Sometimes I’m falling asleep and an idea comes to me visually; sometimes I see an object that inspires an idea; other times, an idea will come to me by way of intentional research. But one thing that seems to be consistent in my creative process is the point at which the concept arrives for each painting. I never start with a concrete concept. I usually start with a feeling or an unexplained visual inspiration. I usually resist analyzing it until it is near completion; then usually my concepts come into the light. It’s sort of a reverse rational method of working, but I can say with certainty that if I analyzed my work simultaneously with the inception, I’d never paint anything because the logical side of my brain would critique it out of existence before it ever made it to my sketchbook. Therefore, I do my best to hold of the conceptual critique of my work until it’s almost fully on the canvas.
You depict animals interacting with your main subjects in many of your paintings. What role do animals play in your artwork?
It varies from painting to painting. The animals usually serve as symbols for deeper more troubling inner struggle. I like to use animals from time to time because there are so many to choose from, and conveniently, most already come with a common association, at least in western culture. For example: a stork represents motherhood, or the dinosaur represents danger.
Correct me if I am wrong, but you have worked on this collection over the past three years? What have you noticed change as far as your technique or your view as an artist in this time period?
When I first started out (as in right after art school), my figures had more of a Pop Surreal aura about them; they had those iconic big eyes and heads, and were primarily painted from my imagination. But initially being trained as a classical artist, I decided to go back to my roots and incorporate classical figure painting into my concepts. Learning to paint the figure well became my primary focus.
Living in Albuquerque, I felt a bit isolated from the major art scenes. So pushing myself out of my comfort zone and facing my fears in every arena also became a priority: approaching galleries, productively dealing with rejection, networking, asking for advice from respected peers and critics, traveling to major cities, doing studio visits, working directly with nude models, taking painting classes, doing non-stop research, and getting myself into the studio everyday whether I felt like it or not. Turning fear into a voracious hunger to learn on my own has been a truly internalized educational journey that I hope to practice for the rest of my life.
You have used yourself as a model in some of your paintings. Do these particular paintings reflect something more personal to you than others?
Not necessarily. “Until Proven Innocent” definitely does, but all of the paintings reflect things that I and other women seem to have personal experience with whether they’re portrayed through me or someone else.
Whose work inspires and is an influence to you?
I really love what a lot of contemporary Japanese artists are doing right now: Tomoko Kashiki, Manabu Ikeda, Korehiko Hino, and Hikari Shimoda to name some. My work is deeply inspired by artists from the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, the Dutch Golden Age, and The Italian Renaissance. One of my absolute painting heroes is Artemisia Gentileschi.
What would you say to an aspiring artist?
I would say, don't underestimate yourself or others. Try not to worry too much about the opinions of others or over-anticipate the reaction to you will get to your work. Create a diligent self-guided studio practice. Take in everything; apply what you feel is relevant; discard the rest. If you hold on to too much irrelevant BS, it will start cloud your creative eye and show in your work. Create what truly inspires you.
Dorielle Caimi’s work is currently on display at The Gusford, Los Angeles
Until April 19th.
You can learn more about Dorielle Caimi on her website