Artist of The Week: Tony Camaro
Tony Camaro is a Los Angeles-based artist working in fine art, fashion, and design. LA youth culture is a recurring theme within his work and he uses each of these mediums to express his sentiments, which fall somewhere between inspiration and reality check (in his own words, “There is no American Dream—you make your own life and that’s what it is.”). Camaro’s art extends beyond his own experience as well—he’s also a member of the 2K art collective, bringing to life ideas dreamt up between friends. It’s an ideal version of practicing creativity, and one we needed to hear more about.
Milk sat down with Tony to chat about the preexisting language he is using through his art, what his plans are for the future (AKA now), and his new clothing line, titled “In Order To Bloom”.
For those not familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about the name Tony Camaro and perhaps the backstory behind it?
Tony Camaro as the name came when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be in my life. A longer answer is that I was going to school in SF and had just gotten a residency in NY—I was on the streets in SF digging through a dumpster, (a huge part of my practice is to find things on the streets), and I found this African mask which is actually hanging up right over there, and for whatever reason I named it Tony Camaro. Short after I was like—what if I started going by Tony Camaro, that’d be hardcore—so when I went to New York that’s what I went by and from that point till now Tony Camaro stuck—it just felt right.
Word. I know your also in a collective called 2K as well. Could you tell me a bit more about that and the role you play in it?
2K is a creative collective that is growing into a management company for both artists and musicians. It’s with some of my best friends Ricki Business, Ellis Grant, and Cam Kooklanfar. Ellis, also known as Diveliner, is an incredible musician, Cam does great A&R work, and Ricki, one of the hardest working people in the game, manages Diveliner. My place in the collective is creative direction. We all conceptualize ideas for Diveliner (videos, photos, outreach, etc.) and my role is essentially to work with Ellis to communicate his aesthetic. A lot of what we do is basically a mood board that we bring to life. I love 2K.
When your painting or designing a new clothing line, do you have a specific goal in mind or audience you want to reach or is it more about bringing out what you are internalizing?
With my paintings, I want to reach the masses on a Keith Haring level. I want to paint murals and show in galleries worldwide. I really think that I have an important message that I want to share with the world through art. People have told me that my paintings feel very relatable because I think everyone wishes they were a kid again and a huge part of my painting practice is a play on innocence and youth. Youth culture is one of the most important aspects of my own life. I think people lose their sense of youth as they grow up and that’s something I will never lose—that curiosity—a desire to be foolish and to be yourself. In terms of the content of the work—I do play with existing characters like Charlie Brown, Hello Kitty, etc. and its less about the characters that they are and more about the expressions that they have on their faces. I just think the simplicity of their expressions correlates really well to a way we all might be feeling, and so I use their expressions as a way to express my feelings—kinda like an emoji.
In a sense you’re making your own emoji language?
I’m working with a preexisting language that we have all grown up with (childhood characters in a painting context )—but that’s not how I think about it everyday necessarily.
I know when you’re in art school your professors can make you feel like there is a definition of what your art “should” be—for you, did you feel this way? Did your style change as time went on and you grew into your own or have you stuck to a mold?
I think that art school makes you understand those technical aspects of art so you can get to that point where you break that mold. So fast forward—in the time I was in New York there was this big attitude shift where I realized I can literally do anything I set my mind to. I started to put art out on the streets—just easy to understand paintings on found wood. Simple language is so powerful. People just tend to relate to simplicity much easier and so that idea of keeping my work simple for people to see kind of just stuck with me—I liked that it was fun, light hearted and easy to understand. I do think going to art school to understand the history and the “insides” of the art world was really important—but you know, take everything with a grain of salt.
Totally—do you see yourself as a painter, art director, designer or do you have a medium you gravitate towards more ?
I definitely consider myself a versatile artist—I don’t think there is one thing I could choose but I am into painting, fashion, design, and creative direction. I want to be a fine artist and also have a creative position in a fashion house (shooting, directing, conceptualizing campaigns, working on collection designs), but the thing I want to do with Tony Camaro is establish that I have endless ideas and versatility within my work for all sorts of different mediums. Whether its clothing, fine art, design, architecture—I’m utilizing my strengths in every field and I want to have people realize that I’m capable of working in multiple ways. I want all my ideas to translate into all sorts of mediums and I want to work with as many people as possible—Gucci, doodles on a Starbucks cup, Coca-Cola, architectural firms, its endless.
Word—I know you’re about to release your 4th clothing line, can you tell me a little bit more about it—how it differs from the past few lines?
This collection is called “In Order To Bloom” and it’s a seven piece collection of very simple clothing. I think it is very poetic—it’s kind of like casual outerwear and it’s going to be shot in this beautiful grassland landscape kind of like some sound of music type shit—wait is that a Louis Vuitton vape?
Yes, Yes it is.
Fire. Uhm so it’s super beautiful and simplistic but back to what I was saying is that it’s less about the clothes and more about the bigger picture—my ability to creative direct, conceptualize a collection, scout models and locations, find the right artists to help, etc.
Each of these collections differs in theme but I think that my aesthetic is defined and constantly growing with each one. Visions (my 1st collection) was very industrial, Allergy (my second) was very “proper”—it was a mix between high class and low class because I really like that grunge aesthetic and liked the idea of mixing them—it’s just dope to me when artists go to like the Grammys and they’re rocking punk shit—I love that shit. prīmər/ was beautifully industrial and this one is simple and poetic.
What goes on when you make these lines, do you make each piece yourself?
So essentially it starts out as a mood board and I’m looking at like hundreds of photos every single day—I get a very vague idea and it’s mood boarding until I see that there is a theme and then I build a timeline through that. In terms of making the clothing, so far they have all been repurposed which is a huge part of my practice—with me not having a ton of money, and the way I grew up in LA, I go to the streets to find my art supplies and that mentality of working within your means and pushing myself to the fullest when resources are so scarce has really fueled my art making. To me these are “concept collections”. I feel like I am less interested in making a mass produced clothing line—it’s all more for that exploration than anything. There are so many kids making clothing brands and I’m not trying to step into that streetwear territory—100 percent good for them, do dat shit but for me it’s bigger than streetwear.
I think it’s really nice that were at a time when we don’t have to do the normal thing of college and a job—I think that it’s really cool that we have the opportunity to change our path.
Yeah there is no American Dream—you make your own life and that’s what it is.
Stay tuned to Milk for more artists on the rise.