Whitehot Magazine

Remember the Future: An Interview With 3D Artist Nicole Ruggiero

NICOLE RUGGIERO; “Tinder;” 2018; CGI still image, printed on Kodak Lustre Paper, signed and numbered; 8 x 8 inches, edition of 5; 10 x 10 inches, edition of 10; and 12 x 12 inches; edition of 3. Courtesy of the artist.

By BARRY N. NEUMAN November, 2018

As the art world shifts its shape, Nicole Ruggiero is distinguishing herself as one of several artists contributing to the redefinition of art on and off line.  From her New York studio, she agreed to participate in an e-mail interview with this writer.

Barry N. Neuman:  You describe yourself as a “3D artist.”  What, specifically, is a 3D artist?

Nicole Ruggiero:  I use a computer to work in three dimensions (i.e., on an x-y-and-z axis) and not in two dimensions (i.e., on an x-and-y axis), as one would in Photoshop or Illustrator.

Potentially, 3D art may be 3D-printed.  It also can exist as sculpture-in-the-round, rather than just as a 2D print or photograph.

BNN:  In which media do you primarily work?

NR:  I can produce work in a variety of media.  One is a program called, “Cinema 4D.”  I most commonly make stills and animations with “Cinema 4D”.  I also use it to create files that are compatible with virtual reality (“VR”) and augmented reality (“AR”).

Recently, I began using photography to composite my 3D objects and models into actual scenes.  In my current project-in-progress, “How the Internet Changed My Life,” I am using 3D, photography, and mixed reality (“XR”).

NICOLE RUGGIERO; “Limewire Virus;” 2018; CGI still image, printed on Kodak Lustre Paper, signed; 8 x 8 inches, 10 x 10 inches, or 12 x 12 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

BNN:  You’d minored in art history while earning a BFA in graphic design at the University of Florida.  How do you draw upon your studies in art history, as you do your work?

NR:  One of the major things I have taken away from art history and that I think about often is Warhol’s trajectory.  He started as a commercial illustrator, who wasn’t well-respected by the traditional art world.  However, he used his commercial background to his advantage.  Instead of creating traditional, one-off paintings, Warhol used commercial and popular references, and he hired workers to mass-produce his art, which eventually became very popular with the public.

Digital art is on a very similar – and even more extreme - trajectory.  It’s most easily shown and consumed online or in someone’s home, and multiple copies can be produced.  This is different from how a painting would be created in a single edition and shown in a specific art gallery for only a small audience to consume and purchase.

Digital art tends to become popular mostly via commercial means, first on social media and then by brands.  Later, it is picked up and shown respect by the galleries.

BNN:  Your work appears to embody both the personal and the universal.  What’s the basic premise of your approach?

NR:  Most of my work is drawn from personal experience and extrapolated and fictionalized for viewers with tropes and themes that set the scene and the mood.  In almost all my work, you will notice some semblance of Internet or online culture.  I believe the Internet is a unique space that’s becoming more seamlessly integrated with “real life.”  The Internet is used as a cathartic space where individuals flock in order to relieve themselves of their emotions and to communicate with other people.  Similarly, that is how I use the Internet and mainly why I create.

NICOLE RUGGIERO; “Cyber Girl;”2018; CGI still image, printed on Kodak Lustre Paper; 8 x 8 inches, signed, and 25 x 25 inches, edition of 1, signed and numbered. Courtesy of the artist.

BNN:  Setting the mood is what you seem to do best.  Your work appears simultaneously futuristic, rooted in the present, informed by past experiences, and buoyed with expectations and hopes.  Which of these characteristics are most important for you?

NR:  All of these are important.  Technological references from the past, present, or future create the setting and deliver the concept for, respectively, each work.  Sometimes I create a motley of references from different time periods, referencing a larger history, rather than one place in time.

NICOLE RUGGIERO; “Netflix n Chill;” 2018; CGI still image, printed on Kodak Lustre Paper, signed and numbered; 16 x 16 inches, and 20 x 20 inches; edition of 5 in each size. Courtesy of the artist.

BNN:  You’ve posted animations that reveal the techniques you employ in producing compositions.  Your works are precisionistic and, often, surrealistic.  What are you after, as you concentrate on the details of each work?

NR:  I like playing with the uncanny valley.  I think this extends to inanimate composition, as well.  It’s important for me to create a piece that initially looks real but also seems somewhat slightly off and, upon further inspection, actually computer-generated.  It’s important for a work to not to look like a photograph, as there’s a lot more work that goes into creating an entirely 3D art piece.

This can be compared to the distinctions between online and offline identities and how people can craft their personae online to be closer to how they ideally would like to be perceived.  Online, you may digitally represent yourself in one fashion.  However, offline (“in real life”) you may represent yourself in an entirely different and less fantasy-driven manner.

At a time when being online or offline is as seamless as checking your phone, these lines are becoming blurred.

NICOLE RUGGIERO, “I Wish,” 2018, 3D digital animation, duration 0:12. Video screen capture. Courtesy of the artist.

BNN:  “I Wish” is a remarkable short-form, animated work.  What is this work about?

NR:  I’m queer, and I came out at a very young age.  I was 13 and chatting on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) with a girl who went to middle school with me.  Our conversation was flirtatious, and my dad read the chats. My life became extremely controlled after that.

Later on, I realized that there are many, many people who are in the same type of situation.  I wanted to make something that others could relate to that remarks on that feeling of really wanting to be close to someone but not being able to or being scared to because of societal and familial repercussions and discrimination that would make life extremely difficult or impossible to live.

BNN:  You produce works for viewers to experience online, as well as prints and works that could be experienced in the real world.  How do you choose the environments in which your works may be experienced?

NR:  I like to produce work that is innovative, using new technologies, and making those technologies more accessible with relatable themes.

Last year, I created “Slide To Expose,” an AR work about digital intimacy/privacy, and life and death online and “No ESC,” a VR work about the chaos of our devices.

BNN:  Your works seem to focus on scenarios that are specific and relatable and not on speculative or alien worlds.  What kinds of “worlds” do you want viewers to believe they’re experiencing?

NR:  I want people to believe they are experiencing a different version of their own realities.

BNN:  I understand that you are working on a project in which you are asking people to share with you how the Internet changed each of their lives?  Can you please describe the project?

NR:  “How The Internet Changed My Life” is a XR portrait and installation project about individuals who have a strong, recognized association with the Internet.  The aim is to examine the central role that social networking has come to play in millennial culture.  I call on subjects to submit their stories about how the Internet has directly transformed their lives, as well as how they influence the internet and its other users.  After choosing the most relevant stories, the subject’s portrait is taken alongside a CGI embodiment, “The Internet.”  This figure is unique and envisions how each subject sees and interacts with the Net.  XR and installation components will complete the work.  Within the installation, the XR headset will reveal animations of the subject’s emotions as well as prompt 3D cyber interactions related to their story. I’m accepting stories for this, too; if anyone wants to submit one, they can contact me at nicole@nicoleruggiero.com.

NICOLE RUGGIERO, “Technical Demonstration – Speed Run of Female Ash.” Video screen capture. Courtesy of the artist.

BNN:  You’ve recently established an online shop.  How did you decide to directly offer your works to the public?

NR:  For a while I was conducting sales on Instagram DM.  Opening an online shop helped me with that process.  Currently, I am selling limited-edition prints - in sizes from 8 x 8 inches to 25 x 25 inches – and several enamel pins.  Soon, I will be adding a clothing line to my shop.

Presently, you are reading this interview.  In the future, it will be worthwhile becoming acquainted with Nicole Ruggiero’s professional activities at http://www.nicoleruggiero.com.  Now won’t be too soon a time to visit her web site.


Barry N. Neuman

Barry N. Neuman was previously the New York editor of the online edition and an associate editor of the hard copy edition of “Boiler,” Milan. Works of his published in “Boiler” include interviews with Matthew Antezzo, Carles Congost, Christian Flamm, Graham Little, Victor Rodriguez, Francis Ruyter, and Gordon Terry. He has additionally guest-curated group exhibitions at Team Gallery, New York, and La Panadería, Mexico City. Mr. Neuman received a M. A. in visual arts administration from New York University and a B. A. in biological sciences from the State University Of New York At Binghamton.

Photograph by Lance Evans 


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