On a particularly average Tuesday morning, an editor’s phone vibrates with a new Instagram notification. A private message including a forwarded post from Armando Cabba’s account with no other details. The coffee has just been poured and the day has just begun. Up until this point there’s nothing strange or completely out of the ordinary at 10:07 AM until the post is revealed to be a very clear realistic erotic painting.
After the sudden rush of excitement, viewers typically ask all the what, why, how, and who about the work before visiting Cabba’s profile itself. The collection of beautifully rendered portraits, an erotic renaissance, and hauntingly familiar skewed faces makes you think it’s an online collection made of up of multiple artists. The truth is all that talent belongs to Armando Cabba. Taking a deep dive into his profile and website further proves he’s a creative powerhouse. To answer your questions and ours, Urbanista got into contact with him for an interview.
How has the lockdown impacted both your art and personal life?
I can’t say my day to day life has changed before it all hit the fan. I’m both worried and heartbroken for all those who are suffering both directly and indirectly from the pandemic, yet I’m completely relaxed staying home and painting at the same time. Who knew that while the world is getting crazier that my body has decided this is the perfect time to catch up on all that sleep I never got. It’s weird and the more I try to think about this bizarre combination of emotions, the more my brain wants to eat itself.
As an artist I feel there’s been a lot more respect given to what I’m doing. I’m very grateful and always will be for how my audience has grown along with their support, but It shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic for people to finally acknowledge artists as contributors to society. Being isolated at home, all you’re left to do is engage with forms of art and that includes movies, music, video games, and pornography. Artists have been long overdue on receiving respect and one of my wishes for when we’re all out of this is that respect remains.
Has COVID-19 Impacted your direction regarding painting?
A bit. People expected me to be pumping out self portraits, but I’ve had more than enough time alone that I don’t need to look in the mirror. When I’m surrounded by people again and can’t hear myself, I’ll go back to it. It’s everything else I’m yearning for. That means portraits of others and my erotic themed series are riding up front. Contact is what I’ve been missing and painting about it helps me. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of artists painting surgical masks, toilet paper and Purell bottles, I’d rather create something that’s on hold in the majority of our lives and brings us together on a more emotional level. We miss people. We miss being held. We miss making love. We miss sharing affection.
Is there a unifying theme or element that allows you to jump between painting styles?
It’s intimacy. That’s what ties all my work together. If it’s painting someone in my life to depicting physical companionship to familiarizing myself with my own mind, it’s all intimacy at the end of the day.
Looking at your website and blog, you don’t rely heavily on text to accompany your work. Is there a reason for that?
I’m more in favor of having room for the viewer to experience my work on a more personal level than beating them down with rigid context. You take whatever you want from my work. There’s beauty in sharing experiences and there’s no wrong answer to how someone will respond to my art and implement it in their story. When I do include text, I tend to be very short and sweet. You’re looking at a painting at the end of the day and my artist statement shouldn’t feel like assigned reading. If you feel it’s not enough, go on Google and do your research because there’s a chance I’ve ranted about it somewhere.
Do you feel more artists should follow your lead and tackle many different types of series at once?
Artists should be doing whatever the hell they want to be doing. If they’re invested in one idea they should be running with it for as long as they can. My only advice would be to not feel locked in and imprisoned by your work. Switch it up whenever you want. I work in my own way. Maybe for my upcoming birthday I should ask for a trampoline since I can’t stop jumping into different styles. I enjoy exploring different things and seeing where it leads me, yet I’ll always come back to portraiture. It’s my anchor to reality. It allows me to bounce around like a Looney Tunes character without losing myself. All I want to see artists do is make honest work.
What’s your response to the argument of “what if my kid sees this?” in regards to your adult themed work being public on Instagram?
This argument has always existed. If it wasn’t the internet, it was TV and then magazines before that. Considering all the gadgets we have on us and in our home, it’s beyond simple for anyone to find anything erotic online. This issue isn’t about me, but about how parents aren’t prepared to talk about sex because of their own lack of sex education and social anxieties. Your kid could yell out “BOOBS!” and your Google home or Alexa will load it up. These words and themes are on all those ads and videos your kid watches on YouTube since you gave them an iPad because 21st century parenting. There’s an option on all smart devices to block me and that ends this discussion. To be honest, a child will learn how to say “sex” before “Renaissance paintings by Armando Cabba” As much as I want to be a household name, let’s be real for a minute.
It’s not only that a parent has to explain it’s a sexual action, they are being confronted with the deeper meaning of the work and why it was created. Someone who had a very heteronormative and conservative sex education isn’t equipped to explain what sexuality is in a broader sense. What does LGBTQ+ mean? What is sex work? All of this creates anxiety for someone who has been taught to see these elements as abnormal and has structured their lives to keep them at a distance. I feel it’s not about their kids and it’s about them. My paintings that aren’t god sanctioned pro creation only sex excite them and they question their identity. This question will always exist because it’s a lot easier to paint me as the devil than confront and educate yourself. Also your 11 year old shouldn’t be on Instagram to begin with.
By using biblical hashtags and Renaissance titles, do you feel it’s fair to be forcing nudity and sexual themes into a Catholic environment?
Everything in the Catholic religion is hypersexual so let’s start there. We can’t have nipples on Instagram, but each church has tons of paintings of Jesus half naked with his tits out. Compositionally, Christ’s penis is practically at the physical center of all these works. I lived in Italy for 3 years and as much as religious paintings are inspiring, a lot of people depicted are giving thirsty looks. All the guys look like back up dancers for the next Magic Mike movie. Funny how they don’t understand why gay people exist, yet every Sunday from a young age we are forced to look at Jesus’ rock hard body for 3 hours. The women on their knees looking up to Jesus with their mouths open suggests a lot. Michelangelo made god look so thick, you’d swear he owns a pair of Fashion Nova jeans.
I was raised Catholic and I always noticed how bizarre it was that a man swears off sex to serve god yet he has people line up so he can give them wine and gets his fingers close to their mouths by feeding them the wafer tab of god. Don’t forget to say “Thank you, Father” The same person sits in a cabin all day listening to people confess all their wild escapades and he whispers back orders as punishment for being so morally loose. Daddy vibes much? Long story short, there’s always been sexual themes in religion. People worked those themes in there all throughout history before mainstream media and I ever existed
How do you feel your erotic series will evolve in the near future?
It’s already evolving slowly. I find myself moving away from strictly mainstream adult content to having individuals wanting to contribute directly to the series. The paintings are gaining notoriety online now and I got my foot well in the door. As I’ve been working on them, I’ve wanted more diversity. I’ve stated that I’ve been hesitant, but now it’s a feeling I can’t ignore and have to act on. The new hurdle isn’t being blocked or shadow banned, but some people who share my work are being flagged. It doesn’t make sense considering my post already made it on to the platform yet if someone shares it directly to their story Instagram removes it. Instagram has made it very clear privilege exists on their platform and they’ve given me a free pass. I’m going to do the right thing and lend my voice to others and take advantage of this game one painting at a time.
More information about Armando Cabba and his work can be found at http://www.armando-cabba.com/