~* Stoned at the Nail Salon *~ by jj harper
The first time I go to Smith and Caughey’s is with August. She’s taking polaroids of the fragrance counters as references for her paintings. I think she’s way too confident. I’m a little nervous that a staff member will tell her to stop and kick us out. The only thing I knew about Smith and Caughey’s beforehand, was a story about someone getting caught shoplifting because they were stuck behind a couple making out on the escalator. Frustrating. But also glamorous. And sexy.
I hate polaroids. Even more despicable: the cheap, coldly designed Fujifilm Instax cameras that populate the ranks of Mercy Pictures’ Benetton TikTok interns. Sooooo neoliberal and not chic! August scans the photos and blows them up, transmuting the compositions into hazy-eyed oils. The paintings romanticise the overexposed, nauseating experience of a department store. The mass-produced camera offering instant satisfaction in a nostalgic frame; its gaze on the desire of wealth, or an even hollower signifier of it; contextualised in the mode of oil painting is akin to the mental gymnastics of bimbofication.
Over Instagram Prairie explains she’s always looking for the joke in the work. She values silliness and levity — ex-tutor Sean Kerr is a key influence. I’ve been thinking about Kerr’s art since Jon Bywater mentioned his video and eponymous exhibition Run Artist Run in August and I’s class. The video shows Kerr running, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the phrase ‘artist run’. This wordplay was then exhibited in a Sydney-based ARI, after several recent institutional solo shows, the gesture deriding his own career. On EyeContact Matthew Hanson takes note of how “Kerr chides the elite, the market, the canon, and above all, the dealer, but his tact is always playful and light, with a high dose of self‐mockery.” Both Prairie and Kerr poke fun at the bourgeois but unlike Kerr Prairie is more implicated and interested in the affect of glamour. She described her role in the ecosystem of basic girl culture as “voyeur/part-time participant. . . a spy working at culinary hotspots of the upwardly mobile and seeing what the girlies are up to and making art about them” and by proxy herself, too.
‘Cause all the beautiful girls, they will fade like the roses And all the times they will change, it’ll all come around I don’t know Maybe I’m just stoned at the nail salon Maybe I’m just stoned at the nail salon again