Exclusive Interview With Petite Doll, 1st Prize Winner of the INPRNT Photography Award, 2023 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize by Samantha Dexter
An eerie feeling falls upon you as you spot the doll-like figure lying in her dreamhouse. At a first glance, she seems simply perfect. Her hair is styled pristinely and not a strand is out of place. Her lips and cheeks plump, rosy and oh so full of life. She’s just like a Barbie doll! But she seems broken. A haunted, far away look clouds her eyes. She detaches herself from her reality as a cold, metal claw machine descends to pluck out her heart. Her soft, rosy bedsheets cannot protect her from this fate as unsettling feelings of vulnerability and loss of control plague the air like a thick miasma.
This floral nightmare is “The Claw Machine”, a viscerally feminine, deeply personal and incredibly surreal piece of photography from the dreamlike dimension that is Petite Doll’s mind.
Giulia Grillo, also known as Petite Doll, is an Italian artist currently living in London. She completed her first degree in graphic design before moving over to the UK to study at the University of the Arts. Her pop-surrealist photography takes great inspiration from many places including her day-to-day surroundings alongside artists such as Dali, Magritte, Mark Ryden, Tim Walker. Surrealism is the core of her work which she masterfully pairs with performance photography. Acting as her own muse, Petite Doll showcases her artistic expression alongside unique forms of self-portraiture through the various characters she portrays. Her photo art explores her own “dreamlike dimension” where reality and fiction blur together in sweet yet grotesque ways.
“The Claw Machine” is an unsettling, dreamlike photography art piece presenting ideas of vulnerability and losing control, won Petite Doll the 1st Prize in the INPRNT Photography Award in the 2023 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. The photograph is a 28mm self-portrait taken using a Nikon D750.
There’s always a deliberate touch of melancholy, nostalgia or sadness in my work. I want my art to reflect the complexity of life.
Interview with Petite Doll
First of all, I just want to say a huge congratulations to you on winning the 1st Prize INPRNT Photography Award! How did you feel when you found out you had won?
I can’t express how thrilled I am about this recognition. I’m over the moon, and it’s particularly special to me because I’ve always been a huge fan of Beautiful Bizarre. Having won this award is an absolute honour and a dream come true. I found out about it in the morning when I woke up and I literally jumped out of bed for the excitement!
Why did you decide to enter the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize?
I entered the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize because it’s one of the most inspiring prizes out there and it aligns perfectly with my artistic vision. Beautiful Bizarre has always been an inspiration to me as they feature exceptional artists who push the boundaries of imagination, and that’s exactly the kind of community I wanted to be part of.
I’d love to hear a bit more about “The Claw Machine”. Where did the idea for this piece first originate?
Usually, my ideas originate from elements of my subconscious, like in this case with “The Claw Machine”. It’s like I collect various elements from my memories and experiences, and in this case, one of those elements was the claw machine games I used to be incredibly fascinated by when I was a child. Here I combined this childhood memory with one of my most recurrent elements, the anatomical heart, to express feelings of anxiety and vulnerability, which are themes that I always explore in my work.
As you use yourself as a model for your photography, do you find there to be a certain vulnerability within your work that may not be there if you used other models?
I believe so. I think it would be difficult to express the deep, personal emotions and stories that come from my subconscious to other people. When I’m the subject, I can express these feelings more authentically because I’m intimately connected to them.
Your work is performative, self-expressionistic and you are always pushing the boundaries. Do you think your work has given you a certain level of confidence as both an artist and a women that you may not have had otherwise?
Absolutely. My artistic journey has given me the confidence to embrace who I am, even if it doesn’t fit what others might expect. As a female artist, it has been especially empowering. It has allowed me to escape stereotypes and express my true authentic self.
Beautiful Bizarre has always been an inspiration to me as they feature exceptional artists who push the boundaries of imagination, and that’s exactly the kind of community I wanted to be part of.
When setting up and shooting a new piece, do you find yourself inhabiting the headspace of the character you are portraying?
Yes, this is probably the part of my creative process I enjoy the most – escaping reality, even for a bit, and engaging with my own imagination. I fully immerse myself in my fictional characters and it’s like stepping into another world. I forget about the everyday things and embrace the present moment. It’s a highly performative experience for me – I become the embodiment of what I want to express through my art.
Much of your photography, “The Claw Machine” included, have melancholic undertones, is this a deliberate tone you like to set within your work?
There’s always a deliberate touch of melancholy, nostalgia or sadness in my work. I want my art to reflect the complexity of life – I’m interested in exploring how contrasting elements, such as beauty and sadness, can come together in a way that feels harmonious. At the heart of my work is the idea of embracing paradox. This means that I always try to find the balance between the opposites, creating a space that encourages viewers to delve into their own emotions and interpretations.
What do you feel you have gained from your experience with the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize
My experience with the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize has been an incredible milestone for my motivation as an artist. The artistic journey isn’t always easy, as an artist I also face self-doubt and constant challenges. But being recognised by the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, alongside so many amazing artists, has significantly boosted my motivation and made me feel truly supported. I’m also really excited about the opportunity to showcase my work in the upcoming Beautiful Bizarre curated exhibition!
Would you recommend the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize and encourage others to enter? If so, why?
I definitely recommend it and would encourage other artists to participate. It isn’t only a platform for artists to showcase their work but also a valuable opportunity for recognition and exposure within the art community.
My artistic journey has given me the confidence to embrace who I am, even if it doesn’t fit what others might expect. As a female artist, it has been especially empowering. It has allowed me to escape stereotypes and express my true authentic self.
What do you hope people can take away with them after viewing your work?
I’m very interested seeing how my work can evoke different responses and feelings. Some may be positively amazed, while others might feel a sense of discomfort or even disgust. And that’s okay because I believe art is a very personal experience. My work is intentionally open to multiple interpretations, like a mirror reflecting your own psyche. I want my art to encourage people to connect with it on a personal level, to think deeply about their own fears and desires.
When you’re not working on art, what do you get up to?
I do spend most part of my time cultivating my creativity even when I’m not actively creating. I’m always on the hunt for interesting and unusual things, looking for inspiration from various places. If I’m taking a break I still stay connected to the world of creativity in some ways. Even when I do everyday things like watching movies or going to antiques markets, visiting art shows, or simply cooking a new dish, I try to look for art in everything.