Nail Art

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Museum Worthy: Artist Dzine

Chicago-based artist Carlos Dzine Rolon elevates the nail industry with a coffee table book and nail salon-inspired museum installations that showcase our industry’s culture.

As a coffee table-worthy hardcover book published by Standard Press (the publishing imprint of The
Standard Hotels), Nailed: The History of Nail Culture and Dzine is a photo-heavy look at nails through the ages with a focus on nail art styles and nail salon environments all over the globe.

<p>Dzine told NAILS, &ldquo;The history of applying paint, dye, and adornments onto nails representing spiritual, cultural, and social status has a very long history.&nbsp;I found that the nail techs (male and female) and their clients had the same appreciation and passion as do artists, collectors, and curators.&rdquo;</p>

The book is seen through the lens of Dzine (full name Carlos Dzine Rolon), a Chicago-based artist who excels in a variety of mediums with a penchant for fantastical nail art. On the creation of the book’s cover, Dzine told NAILS, “The idea was that I treat these particular nails as sculptures….My goal was to utilize materials you would normally find (and use) in a nail salon. I combined this with materials I would normally use in my studio to try and create a new language. This is common to my studio practice: creating artwork with unorthodox materials.”

Nailed opens with photos of cosmetic tools from times and places like ancient Greece, then quickly segues into modern-day nail art around the globe. We even noticed contributions by nail artists who’ve been featured in this very magazine. The book concludes with full-page photographs of Dzine’s own sculptured nail art creations. (Editor’s Note: The book contains several provocative images, so, while maybe not ideal for the coffee table of your actual salon waiting room, it could be perfect inside your break room to spark conversation or as a gift from one nail tech to another.)

<p>On the reaction to the Imperial Nails museum installation in New York City in September 2011, Dzine told NAILS, &ldquo;I was beyond pleased. The reaction to the exhibition and book has been over the moon.&rdquo;</p>

You may also have heard of Dzine recently because he’s been in the news for several nail salon-themed museum installations. He explains, “In order to supplement extra income, my mother created a bootleg salon in our home....I loved having people over to the house and the sense of community it created….I wanted to recreate this feeling and tell a story that was honest while still keeping true to my language and body of work. In a sense, my exhibition and project, Imperial Nail Salon is an homage to my mother.”

The exhibit in art museum Salon 94 Freemans featured a salon chair with a part-time nail tech in the gallery and at the New Museum. The Standard, Miami, also hosted an incarnation of Imperial Nails, which included references to Dzine’s childhood home and surroundings, personal artifacts, and a commissioned video installation, with support from the Bass Museum.

Nailed is available for $45 from The museum installation will likely open in additional venues in the near future.


For more information on Dzine, visit

Q: How did you select the nail artists whose work you featured in your book?
A: My goal was to keep the featured work as authentic as possible. I reached out to the international community via the Internet, telephone, and personal visits. I never requested professional images. I asked them to submit what they were most proud of, regardless of format. A good portion of images in the book were taken by the nail techs themselves before they even knew of the project. Some images are people posing with items like fake flowers, champagne glasses, bathroom towels, etc., all in random spaces and elements. I couldn’t have made up some these photo shoots if I tried. They’re brilliant. The book is 100% authentic to personalities. It’s an honest documentation and a time capsule.

Q: Were the nail artists receptive?
A: Good question. Without naming names and going into too much detail, it varied. To be honest, if you know of a well-known shop, nail tech, or photographer that has documented this art form or known to industry insiders in one way or another and are not in the book, they either never returned phone calls or were egomaniacs. This only applies to a handful of people. I can say with confidence that 95% were positive, receptive, excited, and helpful. This book is a testament to the people who love nail culture and who love to create. Our common goal was to make this special.

Q: What was the spark behind the museum installations?
A: I loved having people over at the house and the sense of community [my mother’s salon] created. The concept never changed. I wanted people who normally wouldn’t visit a museum or gallery to visit without fear or prejudice. I wanted people to discover that looking at and discovering art can be a very exciting thing.

Q: Any advice for aspiring or working nail artists?
A: Keep your nails clean, attitude honest, and don’t be an egomaniac (laughing). 

Nail art by Dzine. Photography by Kai Regan (cover and images on black), James Prinz (exhibition images), and Chris Mosier (headshot). Reprinted from Nailed with permission.

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