Nicole Ruggiero and I sat down a few weeks ago to discuss her upcoming project “How the Internet Changed My Life”, her new column for vice and her thoughts on instagram star @lilmiquela.
Photo Courtesy of Abi Laurel with makeup by Toshi Salvino
Nicole Ruggiero is a 3D artist living and working in New York City. Her work is heavily technology centered and its connection to culture.
I saw that you’re doing a column for vice? When did that start?
Oh, yeah. That started a few weeks ago. They asked me to curate the artists for this women’s column and I was really stoked. I feel really happy to do this because I feel like it’s even making me more aware of the lack of women’s representation in 3D and in net art. I guess I don’t really pay too much attention into that stuff because I’m a feminist but I don’t really call myself a feminist artist. I’m not constantly thinking about that . But now that I’m curating this particular column for net art and 3D artists I really see that there aren’t a lot of women. It’s pretty crazy.
Do you think that’s because there actually aren’t a lot of women net artists or is it more that women aren’t getting a lot of exposure?
I think that maybe it might feel like there’s a lack of community for women. I personally don’t experience that, I actually get along really well with guys more than girls. I never really thought, “oh my god, there’s so many guys,” until I started doing this. I personally have tried to invite women who are just starting off in 3D into a discord that I have as like a little group chat resource. I realized that there’s so many guys in there, which again, I wasn’t really thinking about before. I did notice it but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I invited a bunch of women into it and for some reason they weren’t very active, it’s just guys that are active mostly. But I do think that there’s also an upper level lack of representation, lack of curation. That’s definitely an issue and that’s been playing into the art field and even the newer genres of art for a really long time. That’s definitely a part of the problem. I would be curious to ask women, especially just starting off, how they view the field and if it feels like they can’t really enter or if there’s no one to talk to.
What was it like doing a rendering of yourself?
I actually initially did that as a commission for an artist friend to promote one of his new business ideas. But it’s something that I have wanted to do so it was a great opportunity to do this. It’s pretty trippy, when I look at it it’s just like, “woah this is so weird.”
What it more challenging than doing any other rendering?
It was definitely more difficult and I feel like it’s still not perfect, I feel like I could still work on it a little bit more. When I do characters I think, “what do I think this character should look like?” When I’m actually recreating a real person it’s definitely harder because you’re trying to match attributes and features.
So when you are making something it’s not easier for you to look at a picture for reference?
Yeah definitely because I don’t have to make it look exactly like the details of whatever. I don’t use that many image references when I’m making stuff. I think if I need to, it will be for like poses and things like that. I’ll do a pose and look at myself in the mirror and I’ll kind of reference that way versus trying to find an image that is in the exact position I want.
Recently your work has become more photo-realistic, is that intentional?
No, I don’t think it was intentional. I think I just started going in that direction. I don’t know why, I don’t have a reason, I guess I was just drawn to do that. I enjoy realism but I also enjoy making things really colorful too. I’ll go back and forth a bit because when you’re working in realism it’s a little bit harder to get poppy colors, you’re working with a lot of skin tones and browns. That’s something that’s a bit… I wouldn’t say challenging but sometimes it feels a little dull in a way. I like to add pops of color and stuff. I do remember the transition between going from this really poppy aesthetic to more realism. I remember thinking, “this is so hard, my colors are changing, people are going to stop following me.” I was so worried, but I just felt like I wanted to do that and I think now I’m able to work in both modes and I didn’t lose any followers or anything. I think it also showed me that I have a lot of creative control and that people will respect what I’m doing no matter how I’m representing it. That was really good for me to learn.
What are your thoughts on @lilmiquela? There’s a rumor that you are the creator.
I think it’s fine, I don’t want to say too much about the account but it isn’t how I want to represent myself. When people are attributing me with that all the time it gets a little frustrating because I feel like the way I view what I make is very different from how that account represents itself. I think it’s fine, it makes a ton of sense that people are saying what they’re saying but at the end of the day it’s not meaningful and I could do with or without it.
At this point now in your life what inspires you?
I think just my experiences in real life and online, like talking to people and social experiences really inform my art a lot. I don’t draw too much from other artists or movies or anything like that, I’m inspired by cyber-punk stuff sometimes and anime and stuff like that. But I think where my art is really coming from is way more personal than ideas and themes in other people’s work. It’s more based off social experience; the way people interact with each other, the way I interact with people, the way people display emotions regarding their relationships with each other. I draw a lot from other people’s feelings and my own feelings. And the internet in general and how people view the internet.
I’m getting really excited because I have a portrait series coming up that I’m doing. I’m asking people to submit stories about how the internet has changed their life. People are sending me in some really amazing stuff, I’m surprised because for me the internet was always a really big thing. It was there for me at a young age when I felt like I couldn’t connect with other people or my family. I was going through a lot of really hard stuff surrounding family relations and with myself as well. I feel like for me the internet allowed me to interact with people who I immediately connected with, more so than I was able to do with people in my immediate surroundings. I also had a lot of friends at school and stuff like that but I think the internet adding onto that was really important for me because I was able to develop my personality and develop who I felt that I was from a young age. So it was always there for me in a sense. A lot of people are emailing me with very similar stuff, of course it’s more attuned to their lives, and what they’ve gone through. But it’s so beautiful and amazing. I felt kind of alone in my experience and again the internet has proving me wrong, there are other people who have experienced some things similar and that’s super cool.
Where do you think the internet is heading and how do you think it will affect future generations?
I think it’s just going to keep growing and expanding. There’s a lot of cyber warfare now that’s going on, that’s a really bad thing that’s happening online and happening only because of the internet. There’s also a ton of good things, I think with any new technology or science you’re going to have both sides. It has something to do with power, we have more autonomy and freedom so that could go either way. I think we’ll keep seeing that dynamic play out as the internet expands and grows. I also think that’s just part of the human condition as well, I think it’s more about addressing it and doing what we can to not create bad situations.