Grace Villamil, Artist

If you’ve had the chance to visit the Glossier Summer Fridays Showroom (if not, it’s still open every Friday for the rest of the summer!), you’ve seen the immersive art installation that’s taken over what used to be our conference room. It’s called The Escape Room, and it’s a multi-sensory experience, combining light, sound, smell, and feel into something that can only be described as complete Zen. The walls are covered in textured, silver Mylar, the floor is a mattress…we love having it. And we’d like to introduce you to the artist behind it, Grace Villamil. In her own words:

“I studied photography—I’ve always been a very visual person. Even in my earliest classes, when we’d be asked to present one photo, I would build some little thing instead. I’ve always been creating spaces. This one in particular was inspired by hiking in the desert in Venezuela, which happens to be one of the oldest geological structures in the world—so it’s like where the world began. We climbed this structure over a week or five days. It’s 16 miles up, and when you get to the top, it’s like black rocks. I really liked that kind of environment of it being completely black. Everywhere you walked there were these dark rocks. Other than that, there were these dark crystal coves. I was really inspired by all of it to recreate that feeling somewhere else.

I did that hike with one of my best friends named Fabiana, who owns the boutique Coming Soon. I built an installation of this kind in her store, and it lives there permanently. There’s also a permanent wall at Mission Chinese Food, and I did another installation at AThinPlace Gallery in Berlin, Germany—but the one at Glossier is very interesting to me. It’s very site-specific, and because this office is so female-centric, I took a bit more care in creating it. Instead of it being a massive public space, it’s more intimate, and it felt like we were making it a bit more beautiful, to be honest.

My studio is in Greenpoint—separate from my apartment. I use to keep the studio inside my apartment, but it’s helpful to have a space outside of it. Honestly, being a woman inside of your own apartment can be difficult if you’re trying to create stuff in the same space you rest, cook, clean, take a bath…I need a departure between it otherwise I get totally distracted. My home is very sweet and comfortable, and my studio has literally like no windows and feels very masculine, if anything. There are these high ceilings so that my brain can get very empty, and I can just work on stuff.

In the mornings, I like to swim. I’ll go to a pool in Williamsburg and do laps, or I’ll go to the beach and swim out just past where the waves start. It’s so nice to get past the exercise and just float. I also like to take baths at home with just warm water and lavender salts.

Lately, I’ve been using a lot of Living Libations’ Seabuckthorn Best Skin Ever. I have really intense energy sometimes and get reddish and irritated, so it just calms my skin down a bit. I’ll still break out like a teenager, so the combination of Seabuckthorn Best Skin Ever and Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint reduces redness and covers just enough so that I don’t feel like ugh. I don’t really wear makeup, but the Skin Tint in Medium is very, very light—it’s the kind of makeup I’ve always wanted. Before that, I was using Yves Saint Laurent’s Top Secrets All-In-One BB Cream Skintone Perfector, which is good, but it’s a little too thick for New York City summers.

You always have to have a different approach for each season. My hair used to be this amazing shade of light blue, but it was too much upkeep for the summertime. I did it in November because I wanted something that was more vibrant—a pick me up! I went to Lucille Javier at Sally Hershberger. She does an amazing job and made my hair so healthy instead of it being totally stripped. Sally Hershberger has these amazing shampoo and conditioners, and I discovered Shu Uemura’s Essence Absolue there when they used it on me. That keeps your hair really healthy and shiny. I’ll probably dye it again, but pastels are just too much for me when it’s hot out.

Beyond that, I really love wearing this Hermès perfume called Voyage d’Hermès. It smells delicious! I’ve been wearing it for like two months. I use to always wear Hermès Un Jardin En Méditerranée. I went back to the store to get that one in particular, but I was like, ‘I don’t know, maybe I should switch it up.’ It’s just a little lighter than Voyage, I think. It’s also good for summer.”

—as told to ITG

Grace Villamil photographed by Tom Newton July 16, 2015. For more artists, check out ITG’s interviews with Ana Kraš, Petra Collins, and Ariana Papademetropoulos.

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The Artist Is Wearing Revlon

When Frida Kahlo died, her husband, Diego Rivera, locked her things up in a room in their Mexico City home, with the provision that they would not be disturbed for 15 years. They stayed hidden for much longer than that—’til 2004, when an exhibition of the artist’s belongings opened at Museo Frida Kahlo. Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako was invited to shoot the well-worn dresses and objects, and the resulting photos are currently on display at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London. In addition to amazing hand-painted body casts and cat-eye sunglasses, two half-used bottles of Revlon nail polish make an appearance. Orchids To You was Frida’s preferred shade, and I get a little thrill imagining her making this selection—did she pick it for the name? Did she, like me, take forever to choose a new color? In any case, it’s personal details that make legends more real to us, and this seems especially true when looking at the cosmetics of a visual artist like Frida, a woman who dedicated her life to aesthetics—whether painted, worn, or lacquered on nail-by-nail.

In light of this Frida-Revlon revelation, I was curious to look at a few other artists and their relationships with makeup.

Georgia O’Keeffe
In 1936, O’Keeffe was commissioned by Elizabeth Arden to paint a mural in her New York spa (the painting, “Jimson Weed,” was done in the facility’s gym because Arden thought the unfurling forms would persuade clients to stretch). The two became friendly, and Arden eventually coerced the naturally beautiful O’Keeffe to sit for a makeover. The results horrified the painter, who washed her face immediately and likely high-tailed it back to the desert sans samples.

Shirin Neshat
The Iranian artist and filmmaker famously dons thick streaks of kohl beneath her eyes; there’s hardly a magazine profile about her work that doesn’t mention it. It’s a look that appears as much in Neshat’s portraiture as it does in her everyday life. In March, she told Harper’s Bazaar, “I never go out in public without it. I go to walk my dog, and I make sure I have my eye makeup on. It gives me a sense of security.”

Marilyn Minter
Minter’s work often references current trends in fashion and beauty, making her 2009 photo series for MAC’s glitter pigments a no-brainer commission for the beauty brand. A little brand-loyalty doesn’t hurt either; Minter’s preferred shade of lipstick? MAC’s Dubonnet.

Cindy Sherman
The chameleonic photographer also collaborated with MAC; in her case, the result was an ad campaign for MAC’s 2011 Fall Colour Collection (the very one that launched the brand’s ineffable Ruby Woo). Sherman assumed the guise of a curly-haired, over-blushed gamine and a brightly painted, slightly bored-looking clown to promote the line.

Helen Frankenthaler
The abstract expressionist painter found cosmetics useful to have on hand during fits of creative inspiration. Her 1956 drawing “Hotel du Quai Voltaire” was completed in a Paris hotel room on brown liner paper she’d pulled from a dresser drawer, using nail polish and lipstick from her own makeup case.

—Lauren Maas

Images via Getty and MAC Cosmetics. Read Stacey Nishimoto’s mini-series, Art Now, featuring Mae Elvis and Jessica Dean Harrison.

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East Meets Middle East


I’m writing to you from the sandy state of Qatar (quick geography debrief: it’s the small peninsula jutting off the east coast of Saudi Arabia); I’m here helping out with an art & design conference at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, the school where I used to work. It’s a sweet reunion—I get to see old friends, former students, and bask in the endless sunshine and surreal, super-luxury of this country I once called home. Also, I get paid in shawarmas. Lots of ‘em.

Of interest to you is a workshop I’ve been covering over the week. Shanghai-based designer, Ailadi Cortelletti, and professional opera singer, Gao Mingbo, have been teaching students face-painting techniques used in traditional Beijing opera, called Lian Pu. Referred to as “painting of the heart and soul,” Lian Pu is high impact full-face makeup that exaggerates performers’ expressions and emotions for the audience. Colors are also symbolic of character traits—for example, red is for bravery, blue denotes strength, gold/silver are signs of the supernatural (e.g. gods and spirits), and white equals treachery, etc. As a performer, Gao is a Lian Pu expert; his professional training began when he was young, and he brought traditional Chinese paints, powders, and brushes with him to the desert.

The student participants are no strangers to cosmetics—it’s fair to say the Gulf is a region pretty obsessed with preening, and as art students, they are already in possession of steady hands, sharp eyes, and strong a Lady Gaga-appreciation needed to succeed in this type of exercise. First, they learned two traditional Lian Pu styles to practice on each other. Then they invented looks of their own, taking creative license to highlight strong aspects of their personalities. Ailadi has been shooting photos of them in unexpected settings around campus and bottles of Bioderma Créaline are going completely untouched. Everyone is determined to keep their makeup on all day, no matter the conference schedule. It’s been pretty excellent crossing paths with such fierce faces in the cafeteria and lecture halls. Beyond giving students a chance to improve their brush skills and take on a theatrical alter ego, these are the moments Instagram was made for.

Keep it 3ajeeb (Arabizi for “weird/cool”)!


Photos courtesy of the author. Read Connie Tsang’s experience in Cartagena and other postcards right here.

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Athena Currey, CEO, The Posters

“In my 20s when I was living in New York, I went out all the time. If you live in a small apartment, then you don’t actually want to be in your apartment all the time, so we were out every night. My favorite thing used to be to go to Smiths/Morrissey night in New York City. My friends Ben Cho and Brian DeGraw used to DJ that for like 10 years. It was the best place to go because you’d always see friends, and they’d play amazing music. That was super fun. In the beginning there were five of us who would be there dancing, but toward the end, it was so packed that you couldn’t even move.

Then I moved to LA last February with my boyfriend, Chad, who is a photographer. We love it—it’s a lot more mellow. It’s just a really good place to escape the craziness of New York. Now I don’t go out much, but I do lots of dinners with friends. It feels like you actually get to know people when you go to their houses for dinners, which I really appreciate—especially if they have really beautiful art in their homes and are interested in hosting good parties. Because of my background in art it’s so cool to see beautiful pieces in actual homes. My partner Adrian Rosenfeld and I founded The Posters a year ago. It’s an online website where we sell posters made by established artists. We sell them at affordable prices because we want to get art work out to the world and in people’s homes, and then we give 10-20 percent of each sale to fund education in the arts.

So, it’s a little weird but, when I go to my friends’ houses, I like to play this game called ‘Wolves.’ It’s a group of adults getting together and forming a circle…some of the people are villagers and some are wolves. It’s a little like mafia—throughout the game, you’re trying to figure out who is who. If you’re a wolf, your goal is to strategize and catch the villagers and vice-versa. There is music involved and theatrics—we kind of turn it into a production. It’s really fun. I am basically a giant dork, so these are the kinds of things I like to do.

I need to put on music, so maybe Beyonce or Prince or maybe Morrissey. I sing a lot in the mirror. I probably sing more than I put makeup on, especially in the bathroom because my voice doesn’t sound too bad. I pretend I am on The Voice and that Blake [Shelton] is going to pick me and put me on his team!

If I have an event during the week, it’s usually after work, so I get ready in my office. We share our space with an architect, and it’s all guys, and they look at me a little funny when I have to do this. My essentials definitely include some concealer, powder, an eyelash curler, and mascara—plus I always like to wear lip balm, no matter what. I have naturally red lips, so I tend not to wear lipstick. I use Aquaphor, which you can also use on animal bites and serious burns. It’s like a first-aid kit in your purse! I use that and usually like to do my eyes, so I do mascara and maybe a little bit of eyeshadow.

I tend to lean more toward natural colors I guess, nothing too bright. I have this gold shimmery eye shadow that I like to wear. I’m not great at putting it on because I tend to get it on other places that I probably shouldn’t, but it’s very pretty. Then I just use concealer. I have YSL Touche Éclat, and I love it. It’s not too heavy. I use it all over—I put it on my zits and under my eyes. Then maybe a BB cream or something like that as well and then powder. The powder I have is Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals Ready SPF 15 Touch Up Veil. It’s not too heavy. I don’t really like powder or the way it looks, and that one doesn’t make me feel like I look like I’m wearing too much makeup.

I’ve used Maybelline Great Lash since I was a teenager. It’s amazing. Before the mascara I use the Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler. Even if I’m not wearing eye makeup, I’ll curl my eyelashes anyway because I think it brightens up your eyes. I don’t wear blush because I turn pink if I drink naturally, but I will pinch my cheeks if I’m not drinking, and that’s my only blush for the evening.

Also I have absolutely no eyebrows, and I happen to be blind. Well, not really, but I am near-sighted. I tend to buy glasses that are darker on top because it kind of gives the allusion of having an eyebrow. [Laughs]

I’ll just brush my hair and put a little bit of Kérastase Laque Couture hairspray in it to give it a bit of body because my hair is a little bit thinner. Once I spray the hairspray on, I’ll brush it through, so it doesn’t look like it has hairspray in it. That gives it some volume. The other thing is dry shampoo. I’m growing out my hair now and the roots are coming in so the dry shampoo kind of helps with that too.

I think one thing that is really important is a perfume or a scent after a long day of work, just to revitalize your senses again. I have this one by Andy Sherwood. She makes it out of her house, I think. She makes these essential oils that are really amazing. It is one of the perfumes that my boyfriend actually likes out of all the perfumes that I have tried, so that’s a bonus. She’s a Pilates instructor and all about wellbeing and physical health, and I think the oils are an extension of that practice. They are really quite nice.

I always seem to have a go-to outfit that I’ll wear for a good amount of time and then switch it. I came to the office wearing black jeans and a white button-up, and then I changed into my go-to outfit that I’m wearing right now, which is my vintage Jean Paul Gaultier jumpsuit.  This is the one I’m into right now—it fits me in a nice way that gives me shape without making me feel too exposed. It has a really great structure to it, and it’s made really, really well. I think it gives me a little more confidence. It’s like my power jumpsuit. [Laughs] Then I have these Alexander Wang shoes that are the only heels that I seem to be able to walk in, or I wear Converse or Vans.

I think that nail polish is a great way to add color. Recently I have been in a black-and-white phase, but now that it is spring, I am starting to like more pinks, oranges, and reds. The other thing is having a colorful bag. I have a red Alexander Wang clutch that I’ll sometimes bring out. I also like Summer Bummer, which is a company based out of LA. They make these amazing bags with huge zippers. They’ll make them with neoprene, but you can also get a custom one, so I got one with yellows and pinks, and it’s really bright. I’ll carry that around as well. Nail polish and bags are a great way to add to an outfit.

Also my go-to accessory for dinner parties is definitely a rolled up poster. I bring them everywhere I go, and anyone I know probably has one in their house!

I usually take a shower because I don’t like going to bed with makeup on my face. Because we’re in LA and going through a drought, I have a little red bucket that I throw in the shower before I get in so that it captures all my water as it’s heating up. Then I use that water on my flowers out in the yard. I fill up a bucket every time.

I wash my face and take off my eye makeup with Sens’Eyes by Make Up For Ever. Then, for my body, I’m addicted to Kiehl’s Original Musk Bath & Shower Liquid Body Cleanser. I’ve been using it for like 10 years. I love the smell. Sometimes I can’t smell it on myself anymore, I think maybe because I am used to it, but I can smell it on other people, and I just love it.

When I get out, I have two kinds of moisturizers that I love. It’s either the Egyptian Magic Skin Cream or Sweet Blessed’s Bee Magic, and both are really thick. They are serious moisturizers.

Right before bed I’ll put on some essential oil that smells nice because it scents everything around me. There is this company called Rule of Three that makes really beautiful pillows and things. They have this really cool technique where they marble the fabric, and they just gave me this great pillow with lavender in it. I never would have used something like this, but now when I am going to bed sometimes I’ll throw that on my eyes, and I’ll fall asleep with it over my face.”

—as told to ITG

Athena Currey photographed by Jane Houle. Read Nikki Reed’s After Dark and more in the series here.

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Art Now: Petra Cortright

“Disinterested delight permeates Petra Cortright’s work. She is creating paintings, sculptures, installations, and, increasingly performances. They look and feel abstract but are in essence plainly representational, and what they represent is the experience of intellectual and aesthetic impoverishment, which perhaps is the truth of reality today. By representing this impoverished reality through form, disinterested work wants us to reflect upon the poverty of it all. That is the strange thing about this species of art.  It forces us to do a lot of reflecting so that it remains disinteresting to us.” – Paul Chan discussing Cortright’s work in Spike Art Quarterly (2010)

Petra Cortright is the future. A virtual persona—as both the subject and the producer—Petra’s work through the webcam captures moments that every girl with an iSight camera can relate to and understand. Petra gazes at herself in the camera, singing her favorite rave song with soft lavender light pulsating in the background, sitting in a hotel room at a desk as it begins to snow, capturing ordinary moments and blasting them with fantasy and beauty.

The artist has turned net art into fine art. A true master of color, pattern and print, her digital paintings know how to touch on every sense.
In Petra’s words, “generic dreamy, dream house mood boards, flowers people would like to have at their wedding, exotic travel landscapes, and cityscapes” inspire her world. Expressed through DIY technology, she likes making advanced look easy—all in a cup of shaved ice brightly colored with inspiration from nature, synthetic magic, high fashion, beauty, the future, and the past.
 When Stella McCartney discovered Petra’s work she was instantly blown away. She told The Cut, “[Petra] represents the next-generation Stella girl to me in every way.” Thus a video collaboration for Stella’s AW14 Collection was born. Petra’s videos feature high-low roots. She takes landscape inspiration from Sim City to her experience growing up in a house on a hill with mountain views on one side and an ocean view on the other. She never had a proper studio, but she did have a computer at home. From there comes an artist to lead us across the digital tundra and the exotic gardens of fantasy and desire.
—Stacey Nishimoto
Photos courtesy of Petra Cortright.

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