August 28 2014

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Vanity Projects: Where Your Fingers Are The Canvas



I admit that I was one of the biggest backers of the nail art craze and I couldn’t get enough bling and feline-inspired renderings on all ten tips. And then there came a point where I completely overdosed on all the glitter and doodads, so I went cold turkey—and completely bare. Only lately have I started dabbling with solid colors again. However, when offered a manicure this weekend at the recently opened Vanity Projects nail salon, the minimalist approach went out the window and I fell down the bedazzled rabbit hole and landed with another over-the-top paint job (albeit an absolutely amazing one). After spending three hours across from a self-taught, creative genius (Caroline Östling), I was left with lifelike portraits of my cats, along with New York Knicks- and Alexander McQueen-inspired designs. In other words, it was an amalgamation of all things me. You may have heard of the “project” through it’s temporary pop-up at MoMa PS1, but now founder, Rita De Alencar Pinto, has set-up permanent shop on the outskirts of Chinatown.

While Pinto has a background as an art curator, she’s also a licensed nail tech, who describes nail school as “mundane as hell.” Lucky for you, however, the mani masterpieces created in her salon are anything but. She approaches nail art in much the same way she would the pieces that hang in a traditional gallery, and the manicurists that work in her salon as artists. Pinto has even started an artist-in-residence program, where international manicurists (like Östling, who is from Sweden) can bring their unique style and talent stateside for a limited amount of time. “I’m recontextualizing what already exists in the art world,” explains the founder. She sees Vanity Projects as a “high-end atelier” (not just your run-of-the-mill corner mani/pedi spot), which she’s managed to merge with her passion for video art—projected on the white walls behind the four manicure stations, and alongside the two pedicure chairs. “It’s a medium you don’t have time for at the museum…but I’ve got a captive audience here getting their nails done,” she says. Currently, she’s running a program entitled Girls, Girls, Girls through September 28, which features work by artists like Eve Sussman, Kristin Lucas, Tala Madani, Shannon Plumb, Marta Dell’Angelo, Sophie Lisa Beresford, and others, that explores the facets of the female persona. And listening to the reel via wireless headphones while you sit back and relax is optional. “I don’t want to ram it down anyone’s throats,” she adds. And if you like the stationary kind of art, there’s plenty of that too—some of Pinto’s personal collection is displayed, including a Marilyn Minter in the bathroom.

The founder divulges that the fashion world “…isn’t really my network,” but Vanity Projects is certainly staking its claim during NYFW—leading the charge at Alice + Olivia (Nail Swag and Britney Tokyo are creating boho-themed manicures to accompany the collection). Pinto’s also co-hosting a “pizza party” on September 8 with Marlborough Gallery, and naturally, creating pizza-themed nails. Plus, the “atlelier” will be staying open late—from noon to 10 p.m.—during fashion week. Meaning you’ll be able to sneak in some nail art (or a standard manicure/pedicure with lacquers from Jin Soon, Deborah Lippmann, Floss Gloss, and RGB) between the shows and the after-parties.

Vanity Projects, 99 Chrystie Street, #2F, New York, NY, (646-410-2928);