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Pulse Art Fair: Breanne Trammell of Nails Across America Gave Us an Art Manicure

Breanne Trammell of Nails Across America at PULSE Miami
Breanne Trammell of Nails Across America at PULSE Miami
All photos by Rosie Martin

Have you ever been to the nail spa to get a manicure and felt like you could have gained more from the whole experience other than just freshly polished nails?

You could have probably started a new friendship with your manicurist, but maybe there was a language barrier or maybe it was awkward and neither of you felt like saying a peep. You could have also maybe say, lived in the moment, instead of just thinking about getting it over with as quickly as possible.

Breanne Trammell--an artist, graphic-design teacher, and core member of the Wassaic Project in Wassaic, NY--thinks that's a shame. She got inspired to enroll in nail school a couple of years ago after a trip to Seattle.

"My friend and I were getting manicures and I was just sitting there thinking of what was going on," says Trammell. "A woman was filing my nails, and giving me a massage, and I was thinking of how intimate that was. You know, usually there is a lamp between both faces and there's just this disconnect, like our conversation didn't really go beyond hi and hello. I've always tried to ask how they're doing and chat, but in this particular instance the woman didn't speak a lot of English, so I just felt like it was just this missed-opportunity to have a conversation."

Soon after, Nails in the Key of Life was born, a project that seeks to connect to a broad audience through the act of performing manicures.

Today, Trammell is hitting the road in a canned ham trailer for Nails Across America--a traveling experiential art project that uses the manicure experience as an intimate platform for exchanging ideas and conversation with the goal of completing 500 manicures across the country. Launched this past summer at New York City's Mixed Greens gallery, she's been traveling coast to coast, from Portland to Marfa to Chattanooga and now, Miami.

If you happen to visit Breanne at PULSE Miami art fair this weekend (and you most certainly should), prepare for a manicure experience unlike anything else.

It was our fourth day of non-stop Art Basel madness and we were in dire need of a good manicure and some cheering-up. With Trammell, we were in the right hands. Cultist sat down for a manicure with Trammell--Basel style. Here's a peek into our whole experience.

Breanne's mobile salon in form of a 1968 Shasta Compact trailer
Breanne's mobile salon in form of a 1968 Shasta Compact trailer

Step 1: Step inside Trammell's mobile salon, a 1968 Shasta Compact trailer, and make banter

"So this is day two. Yesterday was kind of crazy 'cause I started really early. I had gotten in late on Wednesday night," said Trammell. "But it's really nice to be here. I've never been here before. I live in New York and being here is sort of like being on another planet because it's so warm."

Nail menu
Nail menu

Step 2: Choose the nail art you like

"Everything is sort of based on art history, pop culture, and junk food that I'm interested in. These are my Miami nails, so this one is the Art Deco architecture, and the way some of the buildings have been painted, which I think are super amazing and inspiring. This is the Gerhard Richter nails, which I also think look like a cool ranch Dorito," Trammell explained to us.

We went with the Yaoi Kasuma-inspired ones, because polka dots.

Pulse Art Fair: Breanne Trammell of Nails Across America Gave Us an Art Manicure

Step 3: Proper nail care

The manicure is usually an hour long, sometimes an hour and fifteen to an hour and a half, depending on how detailed the manicure is and includes filing, cuticle care, massage, buffing, and then the painting of the nails.

Pulse Art Fair: Breanne Trammell of Nails Across America Gave Us an Art Manicure

Step 4: Polish time

Trammell used a mix of Spa Ritual and Orly polishes that were graciously donated to her for her project.

"I really enjoy everything form start to finish," said Trammell. "Buffing the nails is one of my favorite things to do because it makes them all shiny and pretty."

"I've manicured all sorts of nails; tiny nails, large nails. The size of the nail bed does not matter," she continued. "I did a manicure on a cowboy once in Marfa. Barry the cowboy. It was pretty exciting, although I only gave him a clear coat."

Pulse Art Fair: Breanne Trammell of Nails Across America Gave Us an Art Manicure

Step 5: Dots!

Trammell has the precision of a neurosurgeon, which is needed to create perfect Yayoi Kusama-style dots.

"I have to hold my breath when I do this," she said. And she did.

Pulse Art Fair: Breanne Trammell of Nails Across America Gave Us an Art Manicure

Step 6: Admire the finished product

Trammell painted a total of 278 dots. It took an hour and a half to complete a full set of dotted nails, but the beautiful detail on our nails, the comforting, lighthearted talk, and the new friendship that was made was worth every minute.

She also likes to take a photo of everyone's nails for her own documentation and signs a certificate for your keepsake. We were number 236 out of 500.

Pulse Art Fair: Breanne Trammell of Nails Across America Gave Us an Art Manicure

Breanne Trammell will be manicuring nails at Pulse Miami through Sunday December, 8. All manicures are free and tips are welcome. Visit pulse-art.com.

Send your story tips to Cultist at cultist@miaminewtimes.com.

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