Rebecca Fin Simonetti is a multifaceted Toronto artist who shies away from the banal and boring. Focusing on girlhood and psychological imagery, her illustrations are dark yet feminine, exploring imagination and culture. Not only is she an illustrator and painter, she also dabbles in music and designs leather harnesses and psychadelic tees. She’s already released a solo album and is currently working on her next musical project. I’ve followed her rise for three years now, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview the young artist in her home studio. As a volunteer for Pugalug, she spends tons of time with her pug Kiwi, who I also got to meet and hang out with for a couple of hours.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
RFS: I grew up in Vancouver and got a scholarship to study Film Production at York, which is kind of funny because I don’t watch movies and don’t like movies. I’m not into cinema culture at all. So I basically made experimental films about painting, either conceptually looking into the history of painting or actual painting on film. After two years, I just decided to cut the middle man, transferred to OCAD University, and graduated in Drawing and Painting after three years.
And then, right after OCAD, you just started doing your own thing?
RFS: Yes– I’ve been fired from every job I ever had, including serving, retail, and babysitting. I’m not very employable. As much as it’s a choice to be an artist, I also think it’s not.
Do you consider yourself successful?
RFS: Umm, I’m happy. So then, yeah. I feel there are a lot of ways of measuring [success], but I’m able to spend my time working on my own projects and that brings me happiness.
How would you define your style as an artist?
RFS: Kind of schizophrenic because I’m all over the map. Although ‘schizophrenic’ probably isn’t the right word.
I don’t find your work to be schizophrenic. I think of it as feminist goth.
RFS: Yeah, I’m definitely feminist goth. That probably makes sense. I was thinking more of how I jump from discipline to discipline… that’s kind of schizo. I have a rule: I don’t hold myself to my larger practice, I let each idea play itself out however it needs to be. So if I’m doing a painting, and the painting needs something that’s contradictory to all my other work, I give the painting whatever it needs and I don’t worry as much about it being cohesive. My work is obviously girl-centred and it’s definitely on the darker side of things.
It’s obvious that you like goats.
RFS: Yes, I looooooove goats. The goat thing started in Baltimore, and I wasn’t really sure what it meant at first. That happens a lot in my work; I get fixated on a particular image or idea, and it’s not until I make the work that I understand where it came from or what it means. Goats in my work mean a lot of things, it’s a complicated idea as a representation of the internal realm.
Rebecca wrote a more thorough explanation of goats in her art for a series of drawings bought by Hart House.
It seems that there’s a lot of symbolism and imagery attached to them.
RFS: They were a pagan symbol for Pan and then, when Christianity came and turned all that symbolism into negative stuff, the goat was associated with the Devil. But the goat is actually a symbol of fertility. And if you read the notes I did for Hart house, I think that there’s a lot of misreading of imagery within my work, like the dominant meaning versus the intended meaning. So that comes into play with the goats.
New Horns For Hirsh
What’s the reason you use red ink?
RFS: I started doing that in Baltimore, too. I was doing monochromatic drawings in black pen, which is kind of the standard. I just thought, Why not make a colour neutral the way that black is? So I just switched black to red. I like the quality of it, the layering possibilities. It also reminds me of when you’re a kid, and you get your exams back, and everything you wrote is in blue, but the teacher’s marks are all in red.
Where do you find your inspiration?
RFS: It depends. I draw on imaginary influences and memory of past experiences. Even though my work is about girlhood and certain themes within that, it’s also about a reaction to the world that I’m in. So it’s nothing specific. For music, it’s completely different; it doesn’t even come from anywhere, it just pops into my head.
Is there something you do to stay connected to yourself?
RFS: Besides using a S.A.D. light, exercising, and being healthy, it’s being sincere to my own understanding. I think doing something like going to China is really good for clearing your head and getting a better perspective of what your life is like.
So taking yourself out of context and experiencing different environments?
RFS: Yes, shocking yourself. Shocking your system. Noise music.
Listening to noise music or making noise music?
RFS: Both. Going to shows, and noise as a thing.
Out of all of your projects, which is the most exciting now?
RFS: I’m most excited about music right now. I’m getting ready to record an album– it’s going to be a double release with Alex MacKenzie and we’re going to go on tour together. I’ve done a solo album before, but this is very different. I’m really excited. And music has the potential to go along with other mediums.
How is it to collaborate with other people, like with Alex and Wet Nurse?
RFS: Collaborating with Alex is great because it feels so natural. We’ve played music together for a long time and worked on other projects. Alex is one of the only people who I feel that comfortable collaborating with. I’m kind of a control freak and like to work by myself. I like to work alongside other people, and I like the idea of collaborating, but I often think that I’m better suited to solo practice– which is probably why I’m a shitty employee.
At your last show you said “I hate every part of my existence.” Is that true?
RFS: It’s not true, but there’s truth to it.
Is it a character?
RFS: Kind of. It’s not like I feel that way, I feel good. But, especially performing, I feel really volatile and really vulnerable. I love preforming, but I get into that kind of character as a part of my work. I say things like that all the time. I say things like “we’re all gonna die,” it’s my way of saying YOLO.
What do you hate about your existence?
RFS: Existence is hard. Performing and making work and processing the world can be really excruciating.
How easy or hard is it to jump from music to painting or anything else?
RFS: I would say that I feel pretty fluid. I use the same energy and intention; it’s all coming from the same place. The only thing is that I’m super obsessive, which can make it hard to work in different disciplines. I don’t find it hard to switch mediums, but I find it hard to pull away from something that I’m working on.
What has had the most influence on your career choice?
RFS: I’m one of those kids who was always like this. I was raised by my mom who is a hardcore intellectual and not artistic at all. She didn’t really know what to do with me because I always wanted to draw and go to museums and play music. And she would let me do that and totally supported my inclinations… it was just the way I was wired from the beginning. It would be so soul crushing not to do this.
What do you see for yourself in the future?
RFS: More travel, and continuing to explore various disciplines and locations.
SaÅ¡a MitroviÄ‡ is a blogger and Toronto Standard intern. Follow her on Twitter at @thrasheddoll