The Victorian Dead

The Victorian Dead: An Interview with Domonique Alesi


It's been way too long since our last artist feature. Summer is usually a busy time for Circus Living. Tons of festivals and events to cover in Montreal has meant less time to dedicate to featuring some amazing artists. I also admit that I have spent a lot of time searching for upcoming artists and artists whose social media followings are still growing. There are several established artists out there, many publications and websites covering such artists, and tons of followers and fans who already know of these artists. It got me thinking - what about the hidden gems? What about the artists who I feel deserve more exposure? I thought wouldn't macabre art lovers want to know about them too? On that note, I present our very first "Hidden Gems of the Macabre Art World" feature.

Get ready for some romance, nostalgia, a touch of history, and a sense of poetic decay...

Circus Living introduces Domonique Alesi of The Victorian Dead.

How and when did you first get started as an artist?

To be honest, I can’t remember a time I did not know I wanted to be an artist. My mother is an artist. She painted all over the walls of our house. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor watching my mom paint a sea of fish around us. I don’t remember what happened next, or what ran through my mind (it probably went something like, if mommy is doing it it must be ok!). Next thing I know, the story of me drawing all over the walls and furniture with marker has become an endearing story in our household. It was around then, I’d say was when I decided I wanted to be an artist like my mom. My mom taught me how to draw and paint, sketchbooks were always readily provided.

What inspired you to start 'The Victorian Dead'?

A group of my fellow artists were classifying our styles in few words. When we got to my work someone said “victorian” another said “but dead, victorian... dead.” As soon they said that it resonated. I never considered myself a morbid person. I always longed for a world I believed to be lost in time. A world that I have found remnants of sleeping under blankets of dust in quiet antique shops, which I awake with the bell at the door. I love beautifully handcrafted things. I don’t believe the traditions of old are dead; I have found a lot of people who also enjoy the world I romanticize. I take decay as a beautiful process of life; I recognize that when something is reduced to bone, the new aesthetic brings a new life. These ideas have seeped into the aesthetic of my work, so I kept “The Victorian Dead.”

You can always take away something from art, even the art you don’t like. Whether you learn what makes you cringe verses what makes your jaw drop in awe, these are all priceless and personal lessons that can be learned looking at any piece of art.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am very musically inclined. Self-taught, I have taught myself a few different instruments. I play guitar; I sing and I write music/lyrics. Music is such a huge part of my life but I keep it confined to small spaces. I have piles of songs and poems I have written, hand bound into books that are sandwiched in bookshelves, and hibernating under my bed. — Something odd about me, I can kiss my elbow, which I once read in a book means that you have some sort of magical powers...

{C'mon reader, admit it, you tried it. I did and nope, no potential magical powers here}

Can you tell me a bit more about the artistic process you follow when creating your artwork?

I keep my inspiration antennas out at all times looking out for all sorts of frequencies. When I see something, or hear something that makes me think, I write about it. After I write, I read the bizarre arrangement of words sprawled out in a stream of conscious manor, and pick out images I have conjured that best put what I am thinking into a visual. I then sketch and brainstorm how I will bring this vision to life. I love telling stories and making stories into visual experiences. Sometimes these stories are metaphors for experiences of my own. I am an avid reader and book collector; I also draw inspiration from the words of others.

Favourite or most inspirational place where you live?

I have been living in Philadelphia for a few years which has helped me grow as an artist. I grew up in a small conservative town. My close friend once compared me to the tiger lilies that appear in the summer. She said its odd to see such a wild, colorful flower grow in our town. I was a small flower growing in a small cup; I was limited to how far my roots could expand. When I moved to Philadelphia, I became a small flower in a diverse and exotic garden. There are so many different types of people, places, art, music, architecture, galleries, shops, etc.., it is hard not to be inspired by this city. I have seen so much art from all ends of the spectrum. I sit in my favorite coffee shop and enjoy the different minds at work there, and watch the busy people scrambling and strolling to their whereabouts. The Mütter Museum and the Wagner Museum are great spots to learn and be inspired.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

This is not advise per say, but something an artist said in passing, and stuck in my flytrap of phrases, “there is no such thing as bad art, only affect.” You can always take away something from art, even the art you don’t like. Whether you learn what makes you cringe verses what makes your jaw drop in awe, these are all priceless and personal lessons that can be learned looking at any piece of art.

Most challenging part about being an artist?

Ignoring the self-critical congo line that dances around my mind while I work. It can be distracting, but helpful at times. Balancing what can help my work verses what can set me back in self doubt.

Any future plans you intend to pursue with your artwork?

Ever since I was young I have had the fascination with books and book binding. I found there to be something magical in the creation of a book. I have recently acquired knowledge and practice of bookbinding techniques. As a side project I am going to experiment with binding my paper dolls into art books.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of witches?

Words that come to mind are, empowered women that fight adversity with an untouchable mystique. Despite those rather serious words, I picture adorably creepy girls in pointy hats, black cats and brooms.

For more info on The Victorian Dead

The Victorian Dead website
The Victorian Dead on Facebook
The Victorian Dead on Pinterest