Walking into Imperial Nails—an art installation, performance piece, and temporary nail salon at the Standard Spa in Miami—can be a disorienting experience. Chicago-based artist Dzine has transformed one of the hotel’s rooms into his childhood living room, where his mother ran a bootleg nail salon. And while his mother’s clients were treated to a more traditional salon service, now, thanks to some very talented nail technicians, the manicures on the menu at Imperial Nails are anything but ordinary.
We caught up with Dzine at the Standard to get a tour of his living room and an over-the-top manicure.
Where are we standing right now? When I was a child my mother set up a bootleg nail salon in our house—first-generation Puerto Rican immigrants having women over to get their hair and nails done. There’s this whole idea that plays into my body of work about customization and identity and my family.
How does this project relate to the one you showed at the New Museum earlier this year? I thought the Salon 94 New Museum concept was a great one, but for this I wanted to do something a little different and recreate the experience of coming to my mom’s house.
How accurate is the recreation? This is like a 95% accurate reproduction. Look at these photographs…
Dzine’s family photographs
What about the TV? It’s the original TV. You have no idea how many bowls of Cap’n Crunch I ate in front of it.
Where have these artifacts been all of this time? They’ve been stored away… And playing on the TV are home movies. I found a bunch of reels of Super 8 films, so that when you sit there and have your nails done you can watch them. This is exactly the same setting, the same concept as I experienced as a child.
Tell me about the intricate nail adornments that customers can choose from. There are pieces I produced for the New Museum show; there are the ones I held onto; and some would normally be sold in a gallery—but this is my offering, like a thank you gift. It’s a personal gift from me because you’re in my house.
Imperial Nails in process
It must have been emotional recreating a piece of your family home. When I was putting this project together, my mother and I connected on a very deep, spiritual level. When I was going through the photographs to include in here, there were stories we shared that I never knew before.
It’s a total homage to her. Imperial Nails, presented by Perrier, will be on view at the Standard Spa through the end of December. Nail appointments can be made through December 4 and on Saturdays and Sundays, December 10-18, email@example.com
A book signing for Nailed, a new book by Dzine on nail art culture will be held at the hotel on Friday, December 2.
Photos: Chris Mosier