The fanciful work of Nicoletta Ceccoli imparts a haunting storybook ambiance, bending your sensory faculties to her creative renderings. Ethereal with forlorn glances, there’s an emotional longing that seeps from the inquisitive nature of her tiny doll-like subjects, allowing the viewer to amble about joy and heartbreak at the same time… as if caught amid a nightmare and daydream. Through a wonderland of childhood reverie and merriment that leaves you giggling in delight of their mischievous (and sometimes perilous) adventures, her use of symbolism, muted tones and narrative is inspiring.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicoletta Ceccoli to discuss her ‘PlayHouse’ exhibition alongside Bill Carman and Roche Bobois, her artistic style, hobbies, and what the future holds. I hope you enjoy!
PlayHouse will be on view October 17th through November 11th at AFA Gallery with an opening reception with the artists on Saturday, October 20th and an artist book signing on October 21st.
Press: AFA Gallery invites viewers to step into the world of established contemporary surrealists Nicoletta Ceccoli and Bill Carman in PlayHouse, an installation in collaboration with renowned French luxury furniture designer Roche Bobois who will curate a special “set” for the exhibition that explores the boundaries, or lack thereof, between architecture and fine art.
Inspired by subject matter with elements of both whimsy and dark complexity, PlayHouse imagines what lies beyond the frame, giving the works new environments to exist within. Displayed in a series of vignettes, 10 new paintings by Nicoletta Ceccoli and 12 by Bill Carman are re-contextualized, expanding the 2-dimensional works into a 3-dimensional installation. This will be Italian artist Nicoletta Ceccoli’s first US appearance at a gallery opening, and will celebrate the debut of her third catalogue raisonné, published 2018 by Soleil.
Nicoletta Ceccoli: “Play with Me”
Hardcover with 104 beautiful pages with full-color illustrations. Autographed by Nicoletta Ceccoli. Measures 27 x 32 cm
Nicoletta Ceccoli + Bill Carman
Opening Reception with the Artists:
October 20, 2018 | 6-8pm
Artist Book Signing:
October 21, 2018 | 4-6pm
October 17 – November 11, 2018
54 GREENE ST, NEW YORK, NY 10013
Thank you for taking time to talk with us, Nicoletta! What can you tell us about your preparation for ‘PlayHouse’, opening alongside Bill Carman at AFA Gallery? What has this process been like for you?
It has now been over 10 years since I started working with AFA Gallery, and with PlayHouse being our 5th show together, I have become good friends with the gallery’s owner, Heidi Leigh. When you work with someone for so long it’s a little bit like a marriage. AFA Gallery has helped me to spread my work to such a wide audience, and for that I am very grateful.
After taking a look at some of my initial sketches, Heidi suggested the title “PlayHouse” for the exhibition. I felt that this title gave me the freedom to explore different directions with the subject matter of my work, and that it fit well with the imaginative nature of Bill Carman’s work as well. I began making studies based on several ideas, each with different balances of humor, melancholy, joy, danger, innocence, kindness, and beauty. Some ideas were fully realized, and others were thrown away in the process.
In this same vein, what would you say best defines your artistic style and narrative for this particular exhibition?
As I’ve often said in the past, I use my favorite toys as subjects to create a narrative that conveys an idea or emotion, which acts as a metaphor for both my strengths and fragilities. In one painting, a doll is shown trapped inside a glass globe. Sometimes I feel like this — so closed off from everything that it is as if I am surrounded by an invisible barrier that makes it impossible to make contact with those around me. In another painting, a sphinx quietly waits in a silent sea while a man approaches her on a boat. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the difficulty of understanding one another.
Despite the underlying despair in some of my works, I try to keep my work appealing. I want my work to be simultaneously funny and macabre, pretty and violent — a mix of repulsive and delectable. I consider my works to be reflections of myself, but hope that every viewer is able to see something in the work that is independent from my intentions. I hope to create a connection with others through my art, no matter where they live or what their lives may be like.
What elements of your art do you enjoy working with most? And why?
What I enjoy most is looking for ideas — it’s the part of the process where there are the most possibilities. As a children’s book illustrator, I worked on pre-written stories under the direction of a publisher, so now I have a great appreciation for the freedom that comes with working on my own personal narratives. I am thankful that I can work on an exhibition like this without the boundaries of a commercial project.
You have a beautifully cohesive body of work… how has your creative vision changed and evolved over time?
My works from 10 years ago were perhaps sadder, while today I choose to add more playfulness and a sense of humor to them. Of course it all depends on the moment in which I’m creating the work — there are highs and lows in my life as well as in my artworks, and I find that my mood is always reflected in my work.
I try to make pieces that are beautiful, but with something hidden just beneath the surface. You can always find duality in my work, just like in life. Nothing is entirely black or white — I like my work to suggest that beauty and happiness cannot exist without sadness and ugliness. A story that is either all good or all evil feels like it is missing something. To me, life is like that as well — you can’t have the good without the bad.
Describe a place (your favorite place) that has become inspirational to the creation of your artwork.
There is a seashore where I used to go for walks every Autumn. During that season, the shore is filled with so many discarded objects — scratched dolls, tree branches, four-legged creatures in pieces — items that have been cast away, like fragments of forgotten memories. I find them to be very touching. I used to bring some of these things home to become part of my little family of wounded toys. They are beautiful even when they are damaged, and some of them end up appearing in my artwork.
What’s your favorite thing to do you do outside of the art studio?
I love swimming, hiking, and exploring caves. I also love the cinema — Federico Fellini is one of my favorite directors. He was born near where I live, and it was so amazing to visit his studio and see the library of books he was inspired by. Old children’s books, vintage comics, and art books are some of my other passions — I am addicted to them.
And last but not least. You glance down to a crystal ball… what do you see?
Every piece of artwork I make is the result of a struggle and a challenge. When I feel like I have achieved something great, I am filled with so much joy that I forget about the many failures and frustrations that led me to that achievement. I plan on continuing to put all the effort I can into my work, and if I am able to sustain people’s interest and keep creating drawings, books, and exhibitions, that would be a dream come true. I feel very lucky to be where I am today.