Irony, Conformism, & Outdated Social Norms in The Human Condition

The following digital collages intend to question outdated social and cultural norms and behaviors, and stimulate a critical conversation leading to change by liberating human experience from the boundaries of conformism. The artist draws inspiration from music, society, literature, ukio-e, and sci-fi; and often repurposes lighthearted vintage imagery to explore themes such as feminism, mental health, and human interactions.


“Eclipse” was inspired by the ripple effect the COVID epidemic has had on some of the world’s busiest cities, with fears of the highly contagious virus emptying public squares and streets. The three pieces are part of a tryptic representing past, present, and future of humanity’s darkest times (eclipse), where the only constant and connecting thread are death (giant skeleton) and fear (ghost).    

Laundry Day

“Laundry Day” was inspired by a need to come clean with a few of guys I had been ghosting. The day I created this piece I made a resolution to reply to them and apologize for avoiding them and lying. It felt like going through a laundry list. I felt ashamed and relieved at the same time. Hence the several ghosts being washed.


“Identity” speaks to the need to hide our true selves in order to fit certain stereotypes and societal expectations.

Staircase to Nowhere

“Staircase to Nowhere” was inspired by the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. In the lobby there’s a ballroom staircase leading only to a small coat room, that the architect dubbed “staircase to nowhere.” Back in the days, you could see ladies walking down the stairs and showing off their expensive clothes. I find this very ironic and a metaphor for life, the status of women in the society, and the lies that they are told. How many times have you climbed shiny grand stairs that led you to a wall? The woman is wearing a wedding dress, which is a criticism of the institution of marriage and the fake sense of achievement it promises. 

Plastic Love

“Plastic Love” represents the dichotomy between physical and intellectual love. Dating apps made our bodies and our minds expendable and disposable, while promising us to help us find love. These two mannequins are trapped in a plastic body dreaming of intellectual love and connection. 

The Fight

The giant iguana in “The Fight” is a symbol of all the lies we tell and the secrets we hide from others, and what happens when they get out of control.

Holiday Party

“Holiday Party” is a snapshot from a party with friends. On the surface it looks like they are happy, but you can see their innermost secrets and demons emerging from their souls.

I Can’t See Anything

“I Can’t See Anything” is a criticism of the superficiality of our culture ruled by social media. Not only are appearances deceiving, but what we see when we view ourselves will never coincide with the way we are viewed by other people. How things appear to be is not how things are. We’re subconsciously coerced into falsely idolizing “the beautiful people,” and the mirror in this piece reveals the emptiness of doing so.  

Back to Nature

“Back to Nature” is about the need to disconnect from it all and the craving for an off-the-grid escape, given that we live in an increasingly high-wired and hyper-connected world.

Ilaria Cortesi is an Italian digital artist based in Shanghai, China. Using mixed media digital collage, she turns thoughts and feelings into surreal images by fusing vintage imagery with the natural world. The results are dreamy sci-fi landscapes and punchy collages inspired by the punk aesthetic of DIY, that are sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes playful and cheesy. Each piece begins the same way: with a single word or thought that evokes an image. Ilaria then (digitally) slices, layers and arranges pictures until a new visual narrative emerges, characterized by vibrant color and paper-like textures.

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