Corey Helford Gallery’s artist Q&A with Nicoletta Ceccoli for her solo exhibition Handle With Care


How would you sum up the theme of your show? What are some of the ideas you’re exploring?


In this show, I question themes around innocence and maturity, love and loss, life and death. These new works reveal my strengths and weaknesses. I put my emotions, fears, and darkest fantasies on display. Just like in life, my works express a duality, nothing is completely black or white. In my opinion, a story that is either all good or all evil feels like it’s missing something. You can’t have the good without the bad. In my paintings, beauty conceals the grotesque and scenes from fairy tales hide danger.


Sensuality is a recurring theme in these works. Seduction is used as a weapon in nature to attract prey. I use my girls to portray hidden and unspeakable desires, which I try to depict without undressing.


How many works are featured in the show? What mediums?


13 artworks, acrylics on paper.


How are these new works different from your previous works?


These works are more focused on our fragile nature as humans, which I depict by stories of loss. I think it’s important to give a face to our fears, it helps to cope with them. My dark fiction exudes a cuteness that is distinctly feminine. A scene may portray a struggle, a fight, or blood but it is presented in a seductively shiny surface. I always offer a delectable mix of the repulsive and the cute in my paintings.


My work today is more ambiguous than in the past. I aim to create complex visual stories that represent my own doubts, illusions, fears, and anxieties because those emotions are universal. 


Do you have a favorite piece in the show or one that was particularly challenging to work on, and why?


Being a children’s book illustrator over the last 30 years has allowed me to stay attuned with my inner child. For this show, it was interesting to overturn the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Since childhood, girls are asked to be pretty, kind, and obedient. My Little Red Riding Hood has abandoned the role of the good girl and embraced her inner wolf. My works show the evolution of an obedient girl to a conscious young woman, seeking independence and power.

“What a Big Mouth (Little Bad Hiding Hood)” and “Who’s Bad”



What part of the artistic process do you enjoy?


I love starting by freely sketching several concepts, which helps me choose a specific emotion or feeling I want to express. Once I decide what I want to express, I can build the visual story from there. During the development of the piece, I look for colors to suit the mood, form and composition, subject and character ─ each supporting that initial emotion. I constantly reference my initial sketch, while asking myself questions such as ‘Where do I want the piece to go?’ and ‘How can I address the story I want the piece to tell?’ I’ll try many different compositions and layers of colors to achieve the highlights and shades you see in the finished piece. It’s a very time-consuming process but it’s so rewarding when the colors are done and my idea has come to life.


Did the last two years (during the pandemic) change your practices or routine?


I’ve lived here in San Marino my whole life, it’s comfortable, familiar, and quiet. I’ve always been very shy and as a result, kept myself isolated, so my routine didn’t change much during the pandemic.




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