There is this common misconception of what an artist is supposed to be. This romanticized ideal of the creative as this enigmatic person that lives misunderstood and rejected by society. Yet somehow this hero of creativity is stilll embraced by the creative world. Now I’m not saying that artists like this don’t exist. I’m more so saying that more often than none the artist is just a normal person. A person with an inclination to create. Camargo Valentino is to me perhaps both. Talented af, misunderstood by the mainstream, and yet one of us. Just a person trying to make sense of this fucked up hypocritical world we live in. Who just so happens to make very captivating works of art.
Ok maybe captivating isn’t the right word. Camargo Velentio’s work to me is much more than captivating. It’s a poignant and definitive expression of the attitudes of the west. The juxtaposition of the classic styles he’s studied, and the pop icons he references are stark reminders of America’s contradictions. The very figures we place so much stake in are used to show us exactly where our falasies lie. In works like the “The death of America” it is not America that is dying but rather the ideals of what America is that is reaching its demise. The old guard is conceding and sacrificing themselves for our salvation. So to speak of course. A stark reminder that times are changing.
Art for beauties sake is a great and a necessary contribution to the culture, but it’s the messages that last. The work that speaks to the times. It’s that work that is ironically timeless. “Nothing is new under the sun” after all. Those who do not study history, yada yada yada…. I could quote old literature forever, but that’s not what we’re here for. Times change and new perspectives emerge. Relevant and fresh, speaking to the times. I honestly believe Camargro is one of those people. The fortunate ones. A person who effortlessly just tuned in and can say what we have been dying to say, but in a way that only he can. At the end of the day all we can do is shed light on talent. We just hope you see what we see.
I think most artists are students first. So as student, what lessons do you get from who you’ve studied?
As a self taught artist, the majority of what I have learned has come from copying artists which style I admired. I can’t say that I have learned anything from let’s say “Velasquez” . I am no where as good as any masters but I have tried to mimic them to the best of my ability. I feel like I have so much to learn.
Also is there anything you are trying to teach?
No, more like I’m trying to learn.
It seems like you take a few cues from classic artists like Rembrandt and Caravaggio in your paintings. Are your interpretations of those cues satirical, or for more of a social commentary?
Both. Some paintings are done just for fun, just to paint. Others have social commentary. Ex. “The Death of America” was inspired by classical works of Christ on the cross but my commentary on this painting is the collapse of American society today and on how we are so divided as a country.
To me the pop icons you use add an aire of humanness to these characters, and hidden behind that is this sinister feeling. Is that point or is it more just you using figures that you somehow relate to?
It is not my intention to make the figures I use in my paintings come across as sinister or dark. Many people say this, but I believe these feelings come because of the colors I use. I am attracted to the chiaroscuro style of light surrounded by darkness. As we all know, many people fear dark landscapes which is why I think they feel this when looking at my work. As far as the figures are concerned, I grew up as an 80s kid which is why I believe I am so attracted to cartoons, comics, and pop culture and why I use them in my paintings.
What artists do you find yourself most drawn to (no pun intended)?
Mostly traditional classical artists narrative themes. Deigo Velazquez, Antonio Mancini, Caravaggio, Jusepe de Ribera, modern, and contemporary artists like Odd Nerdrum, Normal Rockwell, John Currin, and Aron Wiesenfeld. Artists that use the figure to tell a story.
In what way would you say they inspired you?
I am attracted to technique and feeling combined which they all have. It is not enough to be a good painter. The work has to pull you in and make you look. It needs to make you ask yourself “what is going on here?”. There are many great painters out there today but most paintings do not say anything besides I’m a good technical painter.
Would you say that your work is a reflection of you or of view of society?
Both. Every painting I do was inspired by something I was interested in at that moment. Some more serious then others. Sometimes a work is based on a character I am interested in at the moment, other times the way I feel inside, and others based on current events.
Art can be a very personal thing. How personal is it to you (feel free to elaborate)?
I consider myself a bit of an activist artist. I recently have felt the need to speak up more because of the current issues we face in America. Like I mentioned before, growing up an 80s kid has to do with the characters in my paintings along with the fact that I wasn’t quite able to enjoy my childhood as much as I would have loved to. It’s been said that I make up for that void by regressing to that time in my childhood with these characters in my paintings.
Any plans for the future or do you just create and let the chips fall where they may?
I have all the dreams of any serious artist. I want to be able to join a well known gallery and let the art world see and know my work. Unfortunately I have not done my part in putting my art out there to let it be discovered. It is my intention to do that starting now. I create for myself, but serious artists cannot be successful in the art wold without recognition today so I plan to start showing in as many places as possible. Hopefully making this dream a reality.
If you had to choose an emotion that was evoked from your work, what would that emotion be?
Curiosity. I would like people to like my work enough where they have curiosity to find out more about the artist and what the artwork means. Like how you did. I thank you for reaching out to me. It means a lot.
Any advice for other artists?
The only thing I can say is study the artists you like and practice practice practice. That is how everyone who has ever learned got better, by doing it.