"Fashionable Aftertaste Without End" is Natalia Fabia's third solo show at Corey Helford Gallery, a collection of twelve large and intricate oil paintings focusing on kawaii (Japanese for "cute") that are as realistic as they are whimsical. A trio of young women in colorful, Harajuku-style fashion, are caught drawing cute characters on a wall as they are surrounded by teddy bears and a giant white rabbit. Bubble Punch event coordinators Michelle Nguyen and True Mee Lee appear amidst cherry blossoms in Hello Kitty dresses of their own creation with Domo hanging from a tree branch between them. A group dressed in sweet Lolita fashion hand out next to a small pink house with a frosting-and-sprinkles roof.
With her latest work, Fabia, who was profiled in LA Weekly's People Issue, not only explored kawaii, she captured a movement in Los Angeles where Japanese pop culture has exhibited a hefty influence on the party circuit. At Saturday night's opening party, a line extended down Washington Boulevard and many of the paintings had been sold by the time the crowd had gathered under Fabia's elaborate pink and purple chandelier inside Corey Helford Gallery.
We asked Fabia a few questions about her most recent pieces.
How important is cuteness to you in your work and how did you incorporate it into "Fashionable Aftertaste Without End"?
Well, I paint what I am inspired by, things I love and what is in my life. Currently (and probably forever) kawaii and "cuteness" is very prevalent in my life.
I was lucky enough to visit Japan a couple of times within the last three years and I fell in love with everything there, especially the super cute pop culture! I became obsessed with Japanese toys, characters, fashion, fun products and life style. I even got some "kawaii" tattoos while I was there.
When I came back home to LA, I met tons of gorgeous and talented girls who equally shared my love for kawaii and Japan, many who were more into in than I and showed and taught me a lot! After all this, my brain was overflowing with inspiration, imagery and great models to paint!
All of the paintings were ideas that came to me or were inspired by the model and their personality.
What was your process for the paintings in this show? Did you photograph the models yourself before painting?
My process for the paintings is usually the same, I have an initial idea for a piece-- it can be inspired by something I saw, clothing, jewelry, an old photo, colors or by a model and their personality. Then I plan a photo shoot; arrange the
models, location, props etc.
I mainly photograph my models but I also get some help from my amazing photographer friends ( Kristin Burns and Julie Klima, Jack Speciez), whom I paint sometimes as well.
I choose one or a few photos and I use the photos as reference, not regularly duplicating the photo but adding in my own twists. Some of my paintings are completely planned out, others evolve over time on their own, during the painting process.
Some of your models, like the girls in "Sweet Lolitas" and Michelle and True Mee from Bubble Punch, are well known for their involvement with Royal/T parties, like the Hello Kitty parties, and other themed events in LA. How did you all meet and what drew you to them as models?
Like I mentioned earlier, aspects of my essential painting inspiration come from the models. Especially in this series, the models really made the pieces come to life, their personalities were very animated and they were so excited about everything.
I was instantly drawn to the model's clothing and crazy fashions. I am possessed by fashion and accessories! Plus all the models had this pizzazz I was extremely attracted too. For example, my painting "Happy Friend Tree," was inspired by Michelle and True Mee from Bubble Punch, they had the greatest energy and were super talented. They made the dresses they wore in the painting. We met at a Hello Kitty event. I wanted their painting to be whimsical and look like the scenario took place in Tokyo. It is one of my favorite pieces, it incorporates cute, talented girls, Japanese gardens, one of my favorite characters, Domo, and cherry blossoms!
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I met all of the Lolitas from my "Sweet Lolita" painting through Jamie from Japan LA, she contacted Julie Doll, this rock star Queen Lolita, and Julie Doll helped me get in touch with the other Lolitas. Working with them was magical!
Check out more of Fabia's paintings from "Fashionable Aftertaste Without End" on Corey Helford's website.