A Closer Look at Dzine + Imperial Nails

Dec 01 2011

For our second edition of Standard Press, Nailed, we featured the colorful, blinged out, and stunning work of artist Dzine. Dzine transformed one hotel room into his mom’s 1970s make-shift nail salon and all day folks have been stopping by The Standard Spa, Miami Beach to get their nails done in a way they’ve never imagined. The salon, presented in partnership with Perrier has so far welcomed friends like Todd Eberle, Kalup Linzy, and Amanda Lepore – check out our gallery to see more pics. In between preparing for his installation, catching up with friends, and of course getting his nails done, we stopped Dzine to ask him a few questions:

The Standard: Where were you born and how did you get to choose Chicago as your homebase to create art?

Dzine: I was born and raised in Chicago. It has always been home for me, so deciding to make this beautiful city my home base for my studio practice and raise my family was a natural decision.

What was the impetus to explore nail design and embark on this huge body of work concerning nail art?

Growing up my mother created a bootleg salon in our home in order to supplement extra income. I loved having people over the house and the sense of community it created. I wanted to re-create this feeling and tell a story that was honest while still keeping true to my language and body of work as an artist. In the end, this project and publication allowed me to present a visual dialog using materials in a very unorthodox manner that wouldn’t normally be presented in an institution and question how culture and commodity plays into human, social and objectified relationships. Researching this project, surprisingly I could not find ANY publications on the history of nail culture, which is how the book came about.

Dzine at Imperial Nails at The Standard, Miami

How’s this comparison: Nail adornment is to women as tricking out a car is to men?

Funny and a good analogy!

What sort of observations about women have you made being exposed to this world?

I’ve found through my research that it’s not a “female/male” ritual. The history of applying paint, dye and adornments onto nails representing a spiritual, cultural and social status has a very long history. I found that the nail techs – male and female – and their clients had the same appreciation and passion, as do artists, collectors and curators. The more involved I became, the more I learned this really is an art form. The people involved in this community have no formal art training, yet their passion to make beautiful, over-the-top ornamental objects is what truly struck me. I also discovered this community. It is a really unique setting –– either in the salon or the home –– to share stories, gossip, ideas.

Priscilla Frank mid-mani

You work in several different mediums – sculpture, painting, and installation. Tell us the one follow through line you seek to find (or illustrate) within all your creations?

I have chosen to produce work that allows me to push myself as an artist. I do not allow new trends or money to dictate my work or studio practice. Your risk as an artist will always shine and come through at some point or another. When I’m preparing for any exhibition, I’m exploring the relationship between the space, culture, beauty, desire, commodity, and the cross-section of high art and its relationship to community. I try to introduce a fresh new language in the contemporary art discourse. I have learned that slow and steady wins the race. Popularity pageants come and go, but the work always remains. When creating the new work for this particular exhibition and project, I wanted people to walk away with same feeling Howard Carter and the public felt after discovering Tutankhamen’s tomb. With hopes the project and publication would spark a worldwide interest in this particular culture and its rich history.

These ladies are now officially Art Basel ready

We noticed your foreword is written by the one and only Kim Hastrieter of Paper Magazine, master purveyor of nail art herself. Tell us your favorite things she said?

“Brilliant ideas don’t cost a cent.”

We also noticed contributions by Jamal Shabazz, Fab 5 Freddy, Luis Gispert, and Yonehara Yasuma. How did you go about selecting such a diverse group of characters to contribute to your book?

The whole process was completely organic. Everyone who fully contributed are friends and artists I respect. Even art stars like Mickalene Thomas were so supportive of the publication and project, they made sure their contributions were followed through 100%.

In all your travels around the world, what city inspired you the most? Why?

I have a deep affection and love for Paris. I have developed many trusted friendships and been able to produce several projects there, so it has become like a second home for me. There is something about the energy of the people and its history that has always had a profound effect on me. Not to mention, one of my favorite works of art is Gustave Caillebotte’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day “

While creating your wonderfully complex art, do you listen to music? If so, what is the last record you have played consistently on repeat?

I do actually. I think the last few records that have been on constant rotation are: Jose Feliciano - “California Dreaming”, Timmy Thomas - “Why Can’t We Live Together,” and anything by Mulatu Astatke

Yvonne Force + Doreen Remen showing off their nails

Holiday plans?

Spending Christmas and New Year with my wife and our two beautiful kids, Paolo and Mila, in Puerto Rico. It has become our yearly tradition. Family is the most important thing me.

What is next on your plate?

Making new work for several solo exhibitions. I can’t really speak about one of them since we’re working out the final details (but will be a big and very important show when finalized). A large solo exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary Museum, fall 2012 and my second solo exhibition scheduled for Seoul, South Korea.

Photos by Chris Mosier