GRACE MICELI: YOUR NEW CYBERGIRL ART CRUSH
While we often find ourselves warped into the matrix known as the Internet, endlessly stalking insta-famous celebs and keeping up with the lives of our 7th grade crushes, the Internet can also be a catalyst for young artists to start up their careers. Just three years ago, Grace Miceli was another girl roaming the web looking for a place to share her art. Now the NYC based artist has founded her own online gallery, Art Baby, designed her own clothing line, and has even been showcased in Petra Collins’ upcoming photo book Babe.
From her depictions of Lizzie McGuire, Gwen Stefani and Furbies (those big eyed furry zombies from back in the day), her work embodies girlhood — but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Miceli’s childhood was filled with flouncy dresses and bubble gum pop songs. The former tomboy only found a love for all things pink once she outgrew it all. The cyberstar spoke to Milk Made’s Natasha Frid, where she dished about life in New York, her love of Chef Boyardee and how she ‘freaks what she feels’.
There’s a deep sense of nostalgia throughout your work. What draws you to depicting these themes of girlhood and adolescence in general? Why do you think we like looking at the past so much?
For me, when I was actually a teen or preteen, or whatever those years from 12-17 are, all I could think about was growing up. I was a total tomboy, I wasn’t into the color pink. I didn’t care about the aesthetics that I find myself celebrating now — all that girly shit. When I was younger, I was like ‘this is so dumb, I just want to be a serious adult’, but then when I became one I realized that being an adult sucks [laughs]. So I’m trying to hold onto the fun stuff about being female and being young.
What is your favorite childhood TV show and snack?
Everything. I loved Clarissa Explains It All, she was a totally cool role model. She had this pet alligator and I have a pet lizard now. She wore baseball hats, and I feel like I’ve definitely become her. I loved CatDog and all those cartoons. My mom didn’t let me have TV for a while when I was younger and I think I accidentally got cable— like we didn’t buy it or anything, but we somehow got it— so then I would watch everything all the time. So when I’m drawing or paining, I’ll sit in front of the TV and do it, I’m sure it’s terrible for my eyes and my brain but I don’t care.
Snacks–same thing. My mom was a total hippie, all healthy, and never let me have any of the fun shit. The other day I went to the beach and bought those crackers with the fake cheese, where you spread it yourself, because I never got to have it when I was a kid. But now I eat dumb stuff like Chef Boyardee because I couldn’t have it when I was younger.
Is there a motto you live your life by?
This is my friend’s thing but I’ve started saying it too. She always says ‘freak what you feel’, so I’ve been trying to do that— if you want it, just do it, just FREAK it. I’m definitely stealing that from her, but that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Just do whatever you want.
You say you ‘grew up online.’ what do you mean by that?
I’ve been making Internet friends since I started using the Internet at 11. I lived in the suburbs, which is a big part of it. I was also really into pop-punk and would go on message boards and live journal and that’s where I’d find people who were into the same music. I didn’t go to parties, I was just on the Internet all the time. It definitely stemmed from boredom but it allowed me to discover so many things. I’d like to think that I’ve figured out a way to use it in a good way. I think I’ve finally figured out that balance. I’m online still but I prefer to go out and do stuff too. You don’t want to just live online. I mean it’s fun, but it’s not totally real.
Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self?
Yeah, I’d tell myself to chill out. I used to be so high strung and take everything so seriously and that’s definitely the thing I realized most about growing up–that you just have to relax.
I know you went to Smith. How do you think going to a women’s college has shaped you?
Going to a women’s college has definitely taught me the importance of having a strong community of people that support each other — not that it only has to be females at all— but just that sisterhood vibe of supporting each other and being there for each other. Growing up, young women are taught to be in competition with each other and I see that in the art world because there are so few famous young female artists. It feels like a boy’s club, and what I like about the other young women I collaborate with is that we know we’re all in this together. There’s not one spot for the ‘cool girl artist’. We can all do it. Any chance we get, we support each other, we mention each other. I feel like I’ve made that same community here that I had at Smith and it’s great.
Do you feel that your work has a tone of female empowerment?
I’d definitely like to think so, but I don’t set out to make an important feminist work. You know, I’m like a privileged white girl and I don’t want to tell anyone what feminism is and say that my work is what feminism is. Everyone has their own version and experience of feminism. I mean, feminism is so important to me and so I’d like to think that shows itself through my work. That’s how I consider it happening. I’m a feminist, so I’m gonna make work that is a part of it.
How would you describe your sense of style? Do you think your artwork reflects that at all?
Recently, I’ve realized that I’ve started dressing like boys I had a crush on when I was a teenager. Like I’ll find myself wearing a Thrasher hoodie and baggier pants — a young vibe. You’ll never find me in a blazer. I always look a little bit of a mess, but my work is messy, it’s definitely not refined in any way.
What are three articles of clothing you couldn’t live without?
I have these overalls that my friend Sonya made. Have you heard of Cometees? Rihanna just bought a pair of her pants. Sonya custom made them for me. They’re these white overalls with her art screen printed all over them. I’m also really into this XL white tee — I can’t really get away with wearing it as a dress because I’m tall, but that’s another. And I just got a new pair of white Nike Air Force Ones. That’s my thing– all white — which is hard because I’m always snacking, but I’m trying to make that my summer look.
If you weren’t making art what do you think you’d you be doing?
When I lived in Vermont I worked for this nonprofit called Vermont Works for Women that had all these rad programs where they did dirt biking, mechanics and coding classes for girls. So, I’d definitely like to do something that’s focused on empowering teen girls. My dream would be to one day have a gallery space that on weekends could teach art to young girls, empowering the next generation and all.
Check out Grace’s website here