Even before arriving at Vanity Projects, I was already feeling the pressure of writing this post; pressure which manifested itself in the form of worry, anxiety, and fear; three emotional states which have become synonymous with me in the past year. I knew for my first blog post I had to choose something that felt as though it represented Miami, while at the same time, it had to be a project that resonated with me personally. So, I chose Vanity Projects to write about for a simple reason: any friend of poetry is a friend of mine. Their involvement at O, Miami’s annual month-long poetry festival inspired me to think about art in a new way. I never thought to unite art with vanity. In this case, uniting the written word with aesthetic vanity would never have appealed to me because in the past that had seemed so, well…vain.
Perhaps it was that very feeling that yielded the nerves and insecurities that bubbled inside my stomach as I drove through the Little River Business District, past abandoned warehouses, and over the tracks on North Miami Avenue. I couldn’t rid myself of this unbecoming insecurity of whether or not I can pull off being a chic, albeit clichéd, Miami blogger. I wondered if I can I really make a connection between a high-end Japanese style manicure and my craft as a writer.
However, the ladies at this gallery space made me feel right at home. Being offered espresso, Mojo donuts (which deserve their own post), and video-art installations on a mid-Saturday afternoon is what home feels like in my heart. My hands became less shaky as I sipped my coffee, already embracing my role as “Miami lifestyle blogger” more confidently. It helped that Rose, the nail-artist whose clientele includes the likes of JLo and Katy Perry, was more confident in her art than I am in my writing. Her enthusiasm rubbed off on me as she rubbed off my old nail polish and chatted me up on her points of views on her art, the Japanese nail art subculture, and the quality of the high-end products she uses (the Presto brand resin polish is a thick viscosity gel that is perfection on your nails). Rose made it easy to entrust the care of my nails and skin to as she quite thoughtfully summarized the experience in one simple statement: “I can tell a lot about a person from looking at their nails”.
Immediately, insecurity came flowing back darker than the complimentary coffee I had just sipped. Something like that cannot be said to someone in my current state of insecure turmoil. “What do my nails say about me?” I asked. (Don’t pretend for one second you wouldn’t have asked her the same question).
“You are conservative, but you don’t want to be. You have to be, but you’re fun.”
And just like that, she narrowed me down to two simple sentences.
During the remainder of my manicure, Keren Cytter’s Les Ruissellements du Diable (viewer beware) was being projected onto the wall space. It is a seven minute short film about a man and woman whose perceptions about photographs of their first encounter differ. They both conclude with the realization that their self-perceptions are wrong. The man says, “I thought I was having an influence on reality…but I do not exist”. While the woman, Michélle, narrates about herself “she is endlessly reading this moment- eternally translating and presenting this non-particular story”.
And the thought occurs to me, could it be that we treat our souls with harsher material than the chemicals at the more traditional nail salons? Do we file our self-esteem down with harsh perceptions of ourselves? Insecurity and self-doubt can be more destructive to ourselves than acetone to the nail bed, yet we do both without much thought to the consequences.
We may not realize that we are all walking around with ten little canvasses, small representations of who we are. At times, they may be stained or dirty, giving others a glimpse of what little care we give ourselves. Other times, they may be rough and porous, showing how susceptible we have become to the circumstances under which we live our lives. But, if you’re lucky enough to have the help of an artist like Rose and for the cost of Sunday brunch, for two-three weeks you can walk around proudly exhibiting real art and a representation of your true self. These Japanese gel nail designs may seem like a fad or something people would only do in our Miami culture. The fact is, if you take the time out to give your nails (and soul) proper care and protection from damage, you can correct some misperceptions of your own. Or what’s even better; create a self that matches the perception you have. My perception is this: I am a writer. A conservative, but fun one. My goal is to treat myself with even better care and protection than I treat my skin. And, hopefully, in the end I will find that contrary to the characters in the Keren Cytter short, I do exist and my moment and story are particular.
The question is, what do your nails say about you? For help, see an artist and bona-fide soul healer at the Vanity Projects Miami, I promise they will help. If not, stay tuned and perhaps I can.