Have you ever walked down the street when something catches your attention from the corner of your eye and stops you cold. Seconds later, you are startled by your own breath, because you didn’t realize you had stopped breathing? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me the first time I saw the cover of Camilla D’Errico’s Rainbow Children. Everything stopped and, suddenly, I was frozen in time with the girl on the cover. And then, as quickly as I was thrown into her world, I found myself sucked out, left haunted with the image of a young, innocent girl adorned in a crown of tentacles, crying a stream of rainbows tears. After glimpsing, or rather experiencing, the covering of Rainbow Children, you can’t help but want more. It would be like saying you will only have one bite of the most decadent bar of chocolates. That face, there are so many stories in her tears, so many questions you have for the world she comes from. You have to enter this book; you can’t not dive into it head first – no going back. Rainbow Children is not just an art book, it is a portal into a very special world; a world inspired by pop art and anime along with childhood classics from the ’80s, but, nevertheless, this world is very much D’Errico’s world, immortalized with the brushstrokes of her trademark sea creatures and dripping rainbows.
Readers will be treated to a varied collection of D’Errico’s Work. While she is known for her doe-eyed girls, Camilla has been playing with different materials, sizes, and sources for inspiration. One of her chapters includes a collection of work on bees, butterflies, and fruit. One such piece, “Lemondrop,” features a cubby bee with white furry stripes perched on a lemon half that serves as the bud of a flower, almost as if it were a sunflower. The piece is playful and quirky, a general mood that flows throughout her pieces. Such playfulness is best highlighted in a series of tiny paintings entitled “Beauties and Beasties,” described by the artist herself:
“I believe that everything is just a little more magical with a horn on it. If a narwal can rock a giant horn, why not a pug or a little girl?”
While the eyes of the children in the series call out in a sad, haunting quality through the sweetness of the colors and horns, the absolute absurdity of Charles Pugsley the 3rd catches your eye and charms your heart. Charles Pugsley, a pug, sits posed in a little sweater vest with trance-like, dopey blue eyes and his little pink tongue touching his nose. A bee is positioned to land a top his head right next to his bright pink horn that seems to be checkered in darker pink pinwheels. While Pugsley is still my favorite in this collection, another piece in the book struck a different, more playfully thought-provoking and provocative cord. “Kitty Titties” includes nudity as you might expect from the title; however, the nudity is implied. The girls “breasts,” on further inspection, are in fact the smiling faces of kittens peaking out from her skin. The painting is very childlike in colors, and the kittens are disturbingly cute. What makes it harder to look and not look is the mask the girl wears as if she is on display for us. I wonder what she is thinking? While every piece in Rainbow Children flirts with concepts of fantasy, innocence, and pop art, there is also an underling macabre theme in each.
The narwhal is often referred to as “the unicorn of the sea,” fitting then that the painting before the forward, one of the first you see, is a portrait of a narwhal with a rainbow horn. Camilla refers to the narwhal in her work, and you can feel the influence of mystical creatures throughout her book. By choosing a narwal over the unicorn and the sea with sea creatures and tentacles over the sky and dragons gives the beginnings darker landscape, or rather more real world, more honest for these paintings. Maybe Camille’s children have lost innocence? They seem to be in a struggle between light and dark, sweet and sad. Rainbow Children is heavily influenced by anime as evidenced by the style of the pubescent children with wide, almond eyes, even some sailor moon symbols; however, I would also say the drawings are strikingly reminiscent of young girls and animals in the works of Margaret Keane who were also often crying. In fact, when I saw the cover, when I saw that girl, I was taken back to the images I used to see so often as a little girl of the children with big eyes and then suddenly to my mind rushed to the swamps of The Neverending Story and the waves of The Last Unicorn all swirling together in that you girl’s rainbow tears, dripping down her ivory skin. Turning page after page are continuous images that captivate your senses and transfix your soul. There is a Lolita quality to the innocence of the children. Most striking, a young naked girl, her head down, lips slightly open, hair covering her eyes and flowing down her back. Hands up towards her heart and covering her breasts, but where her heart would be instead, a whole with rainbow blood dripping out down her chest. This piece, “Beyond the Rainbow,” was disturbingly brilliant and my favorite piece after the cover. The macabre thread is consistent but never overpowering, always thought-provoking and often times emotional and haunting.
Rainbow Children is a stunning collection of art that is not only beautiful, but thoughtful. I treasure stories in whatever form they appear – words, pictures, lyrics, movement. What is special about this collection is that each individual painting tells a story, as does each chapter and the book as a whole. D’Ericco draws the reader into her personal artistic word. She allows you to journey with her as she tells you about the types of venues she has presented in and the client and critic reactions. By the end, it as if you are an insider to her team, you have been there all along. Her art does not end with the book as she shares, but you have to read to find out just how she is sharing her art with the masses in the final chapter. I can freely admit I have already re-read this art book multiply times and look forward to staring at it many, many more. Maybe it’s the narwhals, maybe the rainbows . . . maybe Pugsley. Whatever it is, those eyes will forever stay with me telling me stories.