Grace Miceli is an illustrator and curator based in New York. Frustrated by an overly-precise, patriarchal and pretentious ‘Art-World’, Grace’s child-like illustrations reject the boring aesthetic that so often comes with ‘growing up’.
Her images wittily combine cuteness with real-life anxieties. Understanding that her position gives her a degree of responsibility, Grace uses humour as ‘an access point for talking about stuff that maybe people are too shy or uncomfortable to bring up.’
Grace Miceli understands the modern-day hustle; she also understands how difficult it is to be an artist, get recognition and get paid. In 2011 she started her online gallery, 'Art Baby Girl', embracing the Internet’s democracy and featuring artists who could have otherwise been overshadowed.
She tells us,‘ Of course, it’s necessary to be aware of how we consume images and products, but I’m also grateful, as a small independent business owner, that I’ve been able to figure out how to advertise essentially for free on social media platforms.’
Taking 'Art Baby Girl' offline, Grace Miceli has recently curated several stunning exhibitions. A favourite of hers, ‘Wallpaper’, which was recently shown in Rotterdam, also allowed the general public to get involved.
chroma talks to grace miceli about advertisement, juxtapositions and the artist’s struggle
In a previous interview you’ve commented, ‘Dudes get to just be artists. They don’t have to be ‘male artists.’ This is something that also frustrates me, and it seems to happen with all professions. For example, with a female writer, you’re immediately reminded that she is female and thus must be discussing ‘female themes.’ Do you find this happens when discussing your work? Does this trouble you?
It happens all the time, and it’s definitely frustrating, but it’s also complicated. I’m still figuring out what it means to both celebrate my identity within my work and also attempt to distance myself from it. I think it’s important for people to understand that yes, sometimes my work is about my experience as a female, but many times it’s just about just me as a person.
Your images are often of wittily reconstructed commercial objects, have you found that advertisement has affected you as an individual?
Living as a consumer in a capitalist society means that advertisements are just a part of our culture. Of course, it’s necessary to be aware of how we consume images and products, but I’m also grateful, as a small independent business owner, that I’ve been able to figure out how to advertise essentially for free on social media platforms.
Your work contains several interesting juxtapositions: you use child-like motifs, yet stress adult anxieties. There is also a contrast between the personal and the impersonal. Can you talk to us a bit about this? Why do you choose to reveal your feelings in this way?
I think that comes from the fact that even though I’m 28 and definitely an adult, there are still plenty of days where I feel like I have no idea what’s going on or how to do anything. When I was younger, I just assumed that one day you’d figure it all out, but I’ve realised now it doesn’t work like that.
You have such a distinct, unique style. Can I ask you how you reached this stylistic point?
When I started drawing as an adult, I definitely lacked confidence in my skills but tried to embody the approach I had as a child drawing- ‘just going for it’. So yeah I’m sort of grateful that my hand lacks precision because I think it gives my work a character that more refined illustrations might not have, but that was never a deliberate decision, it was just how it came out.
Your work includes a lot of sweet and savoury snacks, what's your guilty pleasure?
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures! Everything in moderation is how I feel when it comes to snacks.
Can you tell us a bit about your progression from artist to curator?
Similarly to when I started illustrating, I just decided I wanted to start curating and did so, without any formal training. It has definitely been a struggle for me to get paid to curate, but as I’ve built up my portfolio, that has changed now.
I love working with other artists, which I don’t often do when illustrating, so that’s great. My favourite exhibition so far has been Wallpaper, which was on show at Showroom Mama in Rotterdam. Wallpaper is amazing because the general public who visit the space are also the curators, by choosing, printing and hanging the work and also all of the artists whose work is printed get paid, which is a very important aspect of the show to me.
And finally, what's the biggest struggle you’ve faced since entering the art scene in general?
It’s very difficult to turn being an artist into your full-time job, I’ve only been doing it for about a year, and while it’s been going well, the lack of security is definitely a huge struggle.
On public platforms, we tend to only post about the positive aspects of being an artist: travelling for exhibitions or features in magazines or cool collaborations. But the reality also includes chasing after clients for months on end, trying to get them to pay you, not knowing how you’re going to pay rent next month and constantly worrying that maybe you’ve finally run out of good ideas.
All that being said, every day I feel so grateful and blessed that I’ve figured out a way to make this work and thankful for everyone who has been supportive of my work along the way.
words: Emma Phillips