The History of Nail Culture

Posted filed underBooks.

A new book, Nailed: The History of Nail Culture and Dzine, is a 232-page exploration into the underground world of nail culture. It traces the growth of nail art around the world—from Ming dynasty China to ancient Egypt—and includes images of nails captured by commissioned photographers and Dzine, the contemporary artist who authored the book. It explores the nail-art movement and addresses body adornment in general—with luscious pictures of bejeweled nails, sculptural talons, and other pieces of wearable art that make typing on a keyboard or putting in your contact lenses look like a walk in the park.

Nailed recounts the history of nail adornment and documents contemporary nail art around the world, including the artist’s own creations. The 192-page hardcover book, features an introduction by Kim Hastreiter, co-founder and editor of Paper Magazine, and includes contributions from Luis Gispert, Yonehara Yasuma, Jamel Shabazz, Mickalene Thomas and Fab Five Freddy. Commissioned photographers from around the world captured nail artists, clientele, and salon owners in their respective cities, culminating with images by Kai Regan of Dzine’s wearable sculptural nails.

Dzine’s work explores the subculture of customization and its relationship to art, music, fashion and popular culture, which the artist references as “Kustom Kulture.” Known for his colorful, jewel-encrusted paintings and for his artfully tricked out vehicles, Dzine’s work mines the sensibilities and trends of the street and translates them into a highly personal, meticulously crafted art form. In Nailed, the artist delves into the more intimate realm of body decoration, celebrating the once underground, and now burgeoning nail art movement. First known to be used in Ming Dynasty China to designate social status, and later in ancient Egypt, Babylon and Rome as battle adornment, nail art functions today as much as a vehicle for personal and cultural expression, as a mainstream fashion accessory.

The child of first generation Puerto Rican immigrants, Dzine fondly recalls the bootleg salon his mother set up in his childhood home and the sense of community it created. It is this environment––the nexus of Nail Art Culture––that inspired Dzine to tell a story that was honest, while staying true to his studio practice. Dzine states, “The people involved in this community have no formal art training, yet their passion to make beautiful, over-the-top ornamental objects is what truly struck me, hence the body of work. It has reminded me why I’m an artist and why I choose to create.”

More images in this gallery.

Nailed is available exclusively through The Standard Shops and until February 1, 2012. Y