Camilla Webster, an internationally known Florida artist, is making a meaningful impact on the contemporary art scene. Her work is described as narrative abstraction, and defines Palm Beach in the same way that artists Donald Judd did with Marfa, Texas or David Hockney did with Los Angeles. Her colorful, yet spiritual nature defines the aesthetics of Ms. Webster, a former international journalist who covered the Iraq war, meetings in Davos, and other major events.
Before becoming a successful artist, whose painting fetch been $5000 and $50,000 thus far, she was a successful journalist and TV producer for many years. Eventually, she returned to her family home in Florida to care for her parents, and to return to painting, where she took advantage of the serenity that often encloses Florida topography.
Unlike many who paused their work during the pandemic, Ms. Webster became even more committed to painting during the lockdown. Her 2020 solo museum exhibit, “Every Painting Tells a Story,” curated by White House Fellow author and artist Bruce Helander at the Coral Springs Museum of Art in South Florida, became well-known and prompted her art book, Camilla Webster, Coral Springs Museum of Art. It was the #1 best seller in Palm Beach, and is now in its third edition, available on Amazon. She was then invited to host opening exhibits at the new City Hall in Palm Beach Gardens and the launch of Haven, a design experience on Royal Poinciana Way.
A selection of two of Ms. Webster’s works were then chosen for The Kips Bay Decorator Show House room. Garnering the most attention was her painting that made the cover of Veranda Magazines Inside the 2021 Kips Bay Palm Beach Show House. She has also exhibited annually at Art Basel Miami as well as multiple art fairs and hotels. She was also a speaker at Art Palm Beach’s Power Talks sessions, and did a TEDTALK – Art In Front Of You, on YouTube.
JustLuxe recently spoke with her about the meanings in her work, her direction, and her use of color for meditative purposes.
JustLuxe: When we ask what is your background, please highlight aspects of your background — culturally and experientially — that make your work in art unique. Given how you were raised, is your art informed by certain themes from childhood? If so, how do these memories impact how you see the world now, and how both visions impact your art now.
Ms. Webster: My art is always informed by my love for the earth and sea, my sense of art history, a great respect for the power of color, a passion for storytelling and intellectual ideas, and my commitment to a spiritual path – which is in a sense my commitment to the power of love or healing, and the beauty in life.
I always say my art is an escape for the soul. To construct this experience for the viewer I use my background in the human condition and have walked the halls of power after covering the war in Iraq and the Middle East, the Wall Street crash, campaign 2000, the hurricane season, Davos and more.
I’ve witnessed the darkness of humanity so I’m often seeking to share the light.
I was raised in New York at a very exciting creative time in Manhattan by my English mother and American father. Warhol would often walk the same path to Gristedes Grocery with me. Our house was always filled with writers and editors. My art is definitely informed by the art history and shows I grew up around. My mother was an editor and a photo editor at Time/Life, where she worked with Gordon Parks and many other great photographers.
JustLuxe: You have come a long way from your work as a New York journalist and news producer. What are some of the creative similarities – both static and fluid— between the written word, the finished interview, and the painted image?
Ms. Webster: Today I tell stories with the brush. Whether I am writing a story, producing a video or reporting live – there’s always a puzzle to unwrap and rearrange. It’s the art of seeing that carries you through all of it. In all of these things I’m seeking to portray the essence of something for the viewer, the reader, the listener. In my paintings I spend a lot of time capturing idyllic memory in a landscape. After many years producing television, focusing on nature to tell part of the story I know what that looks like and feels like.
JustLuxe: What was your motivation to choose Florida as your home, with the themes that you depict now? Also, what do you wish to communicate with a specific or a more general point of view about the unique Floridian sense of place?
Ms. Webster: I came down to Florida to our family home for Thanksgiving and realized after a few days this was the right environment for my paintings. The vibrant colors and incredible natural world are everywhere here.
JustLuxe: Does your work in any way reflect or refract the chiaroscuro (dark/light) of the current problematic times we live in? If so, can you provide some examples?
Ms. Webster: The darker times we live in has actually inspired me to press on to create truly beautiful experiences for the viewers, bringing more light to the world. The act of painting is a great meditation for me as well. “Love in the Time of Corona” of two nudes in the forest captures our sense of human frailty and the entanglement of emotions so many of us feel as we continue forth in the unknown. “Change is Coming” of birds deep in the forest with halos among them mark the souls of so many we lost but also of hope as they chirp in a new season. I painted these works in Key Largo during the pandemic, using the landscape around me to tell a global story.
JustLuxe: After seeing your Ted Talk, you infer that a sense of impending loss played a part in your return to painting. Could you expand on that?
Ms. Webster: Painting heaven for my mother really set me on the path of being an artist for my career. There is a strange beauty in grief, which is just a giant form of love with nowhere to go.I put all that love on canvas for painting after painting. Those paintings stirred up collectors and the art world in a way that whispered to keep going. Now years later, I’m a museum-collected artist. I’m glad I listened to the whispers.
JustLuxe Who have been your mentors in art? And who or what inspired you to take up painting again? And what are the lessons learned from them?
Ms. Webster: Pat Lipsky and Bruce Helander have been the most influential mentors in my art career. I wanted to paint more seriously for a long time and the loss of my mother spurred that journey on into something beautiful. Pat Lipsky and I loved to discuss art history and the study of color. She’s one of the great color field painters of our time. Famed collage artist Bruce Helander’s understanding of the artist’s career and his eye for great work, for composition as a collage artist makes him the best eyes and ears I have needed in Palm Beach.
JustLuxe: In what ways are you cultivating a base of collectors? In other words, how do you plan to become better known in different geographical areas than you are now? What gallery exhibitions and shows are planned to display and sell your work in 2021-2022?
Ms. Webster: I have an upcoming solo exhibit at The Paul Fisher Gallery at The Brazilian Court Hotel in Palm Beach in November. You can expect an exhibit in the British Virgin Islands, Aspen and the Hamptons in 2022.
JustLuxe : What current art world trends, and artists are you following and are interested in? And why?
Ms. Webster: I’m exploring the world of NFT’s., or Non-Fungible Tokens. My first major art acquisition was on Instagram so I’m always focused on the latest trends in digital. I probably follow hundreds of artists but I actually keep part of my private environment free of art so I’m not overly influenced by others. Some artists who I enjoy following recently are Will Day and CJ Hendry. I also have collaborations under discussion with some important luxury brands and design houses.
JustLuxe: It has been said that art can become a vehicle for social change, and not just an end product to consume. How do you see your work in those two divergent lights?
Ms Webster: Often, I invite viewers to reconsider their lives, their existence in the work. SO the artwork becomes a meditation. Titles like “More in You” invite you to consider what’re you’re about and what you can do. Two paintings from this series appropriately hang in the office of the Central Bank of Norway at Hudson Yards and in the founder’s office of the integrated health practice Tringali Health in West Palm Beach.