Pop-up salon in Fields Corner offers ‘digital’ makeovers

Here’s an opportunity you definitely don’t want to let slip through your fingers.

Free artsy manicures! The Howard Art Project on the top floor of 1486 Dot Ave. in the middle of Fields Corner is currently offering fashion-forward folks of whatever gender the chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime digital makeover.

What’s the catch? There’s no catch.

The Modernist Manicure is an innovative art project by 24-year-old Victoria Shen, who is originally from San Francisco. She studied at CalArts and then graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston two years ago. She also did a lengthy internship with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.

Shen has explored a wide range of experimental art forms working with sound, printmaking, and new media. She’s also interested in the schizophrenic imagery of post-traumatic Japanese pop culture and pornography, the intersection of technology and culture, and art history.

It is from that last category –art history-- that her manicure project evolved. She and fellow students at the Museum School observed and discussed the fact that sometimes at galleries “the conversations people have about the exhibits are more interesting that the objects themselves.” Taking the thought further, Shen tried to think of any situation in which an ordinary person talks openly about anything remotely art-related. And she hit on manicures, a perennially popular beauty treatment in which customers engage in deep discussions with manicurists about innovative and striking ways to decorate their nails. The use of nail polish originated in China way back in 3000 BC.

Shen explains how far she went to prepare herself for this project. “I went to manicurist school for 4 months, took the exam and became licensed to practice in Massachusetts. For 8 months I worked professionally as a manicurist at Phillipostyle Nail Spa on Brookline Avenue in the Fenway until I became fast and proficient.”

Her project basically involves showing her “customer” a catalog of famous paintings from the Modernist Era and using whatever image is selected as the basis for a unique manicure.

The official blurb reads explains, “Each manicure is an opportunity to meditate over the Modernist legacy while sprawling canvasses of the early 20th century are recreated in miniature on your hands. Choose treatments on site from a catalogue of canonical Modernist paintings. The treatments range from Pollock’s frenetically splashed action paintings performed at the height of the Abstract Expressionist era to Kasimir Malevich’s austere monochromes for a more resigned and aloof effect. A nail professional will be present from March 13th to the 30th to provide esthetic and aesthetic services free of charge. Each manicure lasts between 45-60 minutes.”

The pop-up nail spa in Fields Corner will be Shen’s very first attempt to engage the public in discussion and collaboration, though she hopes later to offer similar residencies in other locations and perhaps train others to use the technique to get ordinary folks comfortable with talking about their feelings about art.

She plans to document her creations and have an exhibition or study of the results of her experiment. For booking and hours, email modernistmani@gmail.com.