Curator and illustrator Grace Miceli (aka Art Baby Girl) is one of the baddest girls on the internet. Miceli founded Art Baby Gallery in 2011, a digital gallery that celebrates multimedia artists in the beginning stages of their career.
By Eliza Trono & Vicky Andres
With the gallery’s first IRL show “Girls at Night on the Internet” in 2015 and more recently her national “Nowhere Tour” with Alt Space, Miceli continues to work with a legion of women who connect online and aims to give artists who have been ignored a voice.
When did you first get on the internet and when did you start using it as a creative medium?
Middle school. I can’t remember the exact year, but that is when I got my first digital camera and started using LiveJournal to post my extremely edited photos.
How did using Tumblr and other social media platforms help build the foundation in your creativity?
It wasn’t until I was studying at Goldsmiths (2010) that I finally felt like I was onto something with my art and that had a large part to do with my friends and peers there. So when I was back in the U.S. and living in the middle of nowhere, I felt like I still needed that community, so I found it online instead. I’ve been lucky to receive mostly only positive or constructive feedback on my creative efforts online, and when I started using Tumblr it felt like a really safe place for me to test out ideas and new projects.
We are ultra pop culture junkies and really believe that pop culture can be consumed in constructive ways. In what ways has pop culture influenced your work?
I’ve always been obsessed with watching things. In a normal week I probably watch at least 15 hours of TV or film. I’ve often looked to pop culture for strong female role models or visual inspiration for my own work. When I first saw Gregg Araki’s “Teen Apocalypse Trilogy” about 10 years ago, it changed everything for me. It was the first time I was like, “yeah, this is exactly what I want my world to look like.” I understand that celebrities are regular people, but I’ve never been embarrassed to be a fan—I’m totally sincere with all of my references. Certain pop culture icons have an overwhelming physical effect on me and it’s an amazing feeling to be moved like that when you are only interacting through a screen.
Art Baby Gallery is a digital gallery which is so unique. What is it like to run a digital gallery? What has your experience been like translating that into physical spaces?
At the beginning it was just a fun side project so it’s really exciting to see how it has evolved. It’s a natural inclination of mine to look for new artists online and share work that I’m excited about, so it wasn’t difficult to decide to legitimize that practice and call it a digital gallery. I either have preexisting friendships or develop them through Art Baby, so it’s honestly such a pleasant way to work. I’ve worked in physical gallery spaces since college so the transition was easy. I know how to hang a show and handle all the logistics, no problem—it’s beautiful to see these two worlds merge together and I can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve.
We’ve read that you studied art/photography/video in school. How has a formal training influenced your ideas?
I learned that I’m not a patient or precise creator. I never had the attention span or ability to focus when it came to formal training, but once I finally embraced that I figured out how I do work best and that was really important for me. I work best when I’m the one in control and making the rules.
How do you view the dynamics between “fine” VS. “low” art?
The definitions are based on class and education. I think important work has been made in both genres and [you have to] consider that “high” art is made with financial and often institutional backing. Those terms are problematic, as “high” and “low” are very loaded words and signify specific value.
Where do you see yourself falling into that?
Sometimes I entertain the desire to infiltrate the “high” art world with my work that I made with computer paper and Crayola markers. But I’m most interested in working with people who genuinely are excited about what I’m doing and not pushing my work into a certain gallery setting just because that’s what is considered success. Sure at the end of the day as an artist and curator I need to make money to support myself, but so far I’ve been able to do that without compromising my beliefs. I’m interested in supporting art that doesn’t already have a platform.
We’ve been talking lately about how there really isn’t and shouldn’t be a feminist aesthetic. Do you see a feminist aesthetic? What are your thoughts on that?
I think that ties into my frustration with being categorized as a “feminist artist” instead of just an “artist.”
You don’t hear males who make huge minimal sculptures referred to as working in a “male aesthetic.” I mean, of course when you work with and look up to certain artists your work is going to be visually influenced by each other, but I think it’s lazy to understand and classify work on such a surface level. We’re all feminists but we’re also so much more than that.
What is your experience with this community? Is there a reason that you think these women are so willing to share their ideas and createtogether?
I think that as females we have often experienced being silenced or ignored in a lot of ways—whether it’s in school or by the media or in everyday social interactions with men. Dealing with oppression makes me really angry and I want to go out of my way to provide a community and a platform so that other female creatives have an opportunity to avoid that bullshit. I think that feeling is shared by a lot of us.
How do you think digital platforms have affected DIY creativity?
I think that digital platforms have allowed for a greater abundance of DIY communities to populate, and they have also encouraged lots of young creative people to be entrepreneurial with their own projects and reach out and collaborate.
How is the “Nowhere Now tour” going? What’s been your favorite stop so far?
It’s fun! But hard to be away from home for so long—I miss my friends a lot. But it’s super inspiring to meet young artists in all of these cities who are inspired by what we’re doing.
I was really blown away by the turn out and overall vibes in Oakland. It was a legit art party.
How do practice self-care? It seems like you’re throwing a new show every weekend.
I’m honestly so bad at this! It’s easy to be a total workaholic when you love your job, but whenever I feel I’ve been working non-stop for like a week I’ll binge watch some random TV show or go to the club to turn my brain off for a few hours and just have fun. Also, the nail salon is one of my favorite places to relax.
What themes and ideas have been inspiring your work lately?
I want to work on learning animation. I recently had some of my illustrations animated for the new Carly Rae Jepsen video and I was so into it.
I think an Art Baby Girl cartoon show would be really rad.
? RAPID FIRE ROUND ?
We are shameless Drake stans and we heard you like drake, so we have to talk about that. What are you going to do when Views from the 6 comes out?
As soon as I listen to the album—if it’s as amazing as I know it will be—I’m getting “VIEWS” tatted on my knuckles, no joke. I was sitting in my living room with a bunch of my best friends when the last mixtape dropped, and they witnessed a lot of hysterical yelling.
What are your top three favorite Drake lyrics?
“Wish you would learn to love people and use things and not the other way around” / “I’m so high, even when I’m coming down” / “You know it’s real when you are who you think you are”
Which “Work” video is your fave?
The second one, I’m so obsessed with Rihanna’s outfit in it.
If you could pick a rapper to draw a picture of you, who would you choose?
Do you have a favorite tattoo?
My rose neck tattoo—it just looks like it is supposed to be there.
If you could take one internet babe/artist on a date, who would it be? What would y’all do?
I’ve been lucky enough to meet most of my internet friends IRL, but I’m still waiting to chill with one of my faves Maja Malou Lyse. We would definitely go shopping for sex toys; I just have to make my way over to the Netherlands sometime soon.
On a scale of 1–10, what activity (any activity) would you rate a perfect 10?
Travis Scott, Young Thug and Justin Bieber come over to my apartment in Bushwick and we order pizza and have a sleepover and watch 10 Things I Hate About You.