Born in 1973 in San Marino, Italy, Nicoletta Ceccoli attended the Institute of Art in Urbino where she studied animation. Also an illustrator of children’s books, Ceccoli got her start while still a student. She was selected to exhibit her work at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Show.
Ceccoli is a master of compositional harmony who explores more emotionally complex themes in her fine art – predominantly innocence and sexuality and love and loss. Ceccoli has described her work as attempting to “offer a delectable balance of repulsive and attractive. What is beautiful, sweet, and chaste hides often dark suggestions.” The dolls featured in Ceccoli’s work represent beauty, innocence, and perfection juxtaposed against emotional turmoil, darkness, and helplessness.
“I love to play with contradictions inside my drawings,” the artist explains during our transatlantic e-mail chats. “They are like the dark side of a nursery rhyme, whimsical, tough, disturbing—a dream of lovely things with a hint of darkness.”
Quiet and lonely as a child, Nicoletta Ceccoli grew up in sight of the fairytale medieval towers that grace the coat of arms of her country, the Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino. Tiny San Marino, the world’s oldest republic, is an hour and a world away from Italy’s Adriatic coast.
Nicoletta Ceccoli was raised in the countryside surrounded by her father’s menagerie of hens, rabbits and turtledoves. She worked in her father’s woodshop making toys and objects with her hands. “My father is a craftsman; he is the creative part of my family,” she says.
When Nicoletta Ceccoli first started illustrating children’s books, she adapted her dark, surreal style to a lighter, brighter one in order to appeal to publishers, but she never lost interest in the ideas that had originally inspired her in school.
For her, the whole city of Urbino had been an open-air museum—and an inspiration. “All is ancient, timeless,” she recalls. In Urbino she also had her first chance to see Piero della Francesca’s masterpieces in person. “I feel the neat stillness of my personal artwork comes from his influence.
Her other fascination, and a recurring theme in her work, is with dolls and toys, both collecting them and recreating them in her paintings. She even wrote her graduation thesis on the subject. “I am fascinated by these mysterious, silent creatures and whenever I am in a new town and find there is a toy museum, I never miss visiting. I find toys mysteriously lifeless yet full of lives.”
View the article with images online at Communication Arts magazine.