“I have a weird thing with voyeurism,” says artist Natalia Fabia, whose paintings depict “rad, talented chicks” in private, doing things like hugging a stuffed bunny or eating an ice-cream cone, often while wearing little more than their undies. Fabia’s colorful paintings, which have made her one of the Los Angeles art scene’s fastest-rising stars, reflect a constellation of influences: fashion, pinup girls, burlesque, glitter, and rock ‘n’ roll. If the hyperfeminine world she portrays is sexy but not exactly sexual, that’s because Fabia is more interested in celebrating female camaraderie. Her girls are BFFs with awesome tattoos, killer bodies, and a taste for skin-baring fashion. They’re the Sisterhood of the Traveling Bustier.
But to those who saw her solo show this past winter at Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City, CA, Fabia’s women are, well, hookers. Fabia applies the term broadly (no pun intended) to all people who have to work for money and, more specifically, to the friends and stylish young beauties who inspire her paintings. For the 26-year-old artist, hooker is a term of endearment, a seal of approval for ladies who rock—the same ladies who patronize her HookerFeathers line of clothing and jewelry. Last year, she found a new way to honor these women: a Hooker Beauty Pageant, where talents of all varieties are the focus. For example? “My friend Vanessa dressed up as a sexy baby and did a tap dance and played with her stuffed animals,” says Fabia.
Earlier this year, Fabia took a break from painting to join her boyfriend, Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley, on the band’s overseas tour with NOFX. Also along for the ride was tattoo guru Tokyo Hiro, who sprinkled the artist’s skin with a handful of tiny images—diamonds, hearts, candy, bees. That brings Fabia’s tattoo count to more than 20, ranging from a chandelier across her back by her friend Tim Hendricks, which she got during an episode of Miami Ink, to a rather large Christmas tree on her thigh. “When I was growing up, we always wanted nice Christmas trees,” explains Fabia. “But for some reason, we always got them two or three days before, and they were kind of ghetto.”
At press time, Fabia was working toward her next solo exhibition, plotting a 2010 return to the Corey Helford Gallery, and planning the second Hooker Beauty Pageant. She was also considering making paintings that feature guys, but her friends have been somewhat dubious about the possibility. Laughs Fabia, “Someone was joking that I’m going to paint guys having, like, a girly pillow fight in their underwear.”