MasterMinds 2017: Jill Weisberg Uses Nail Polish to Create Works of Art

MasterMinds 2017 finalist Jill Weisberg
MasterMinds 2017 finalist Jill Weisberg Photo by Monica McGivern

The finalists in New Times' eighth-annual MasterMind Awards are a diverse bunch, representing the best locally created culture in South Florida. A group of editors and critics chose these nine talents from a pool of more than 80 applicants. The three winners, who will each receive a $750 grant, will be announced live onstage at Artopia, presented by Miracle Mile Downtown Coral Gables this Thursday at the Coral Gables Museum. The finalists will show off their work at the event. Here's what you'll see.

In a city where bare legs and cleavage are ubiquitous, Miami is almost literally swimming in sex. Pair that with vibrant sunsets and art deco neon, and you might assume there's no room left for deep rumination on social issues. But Jill Weisberg manages to transform this juxtaposition into a statement.

Take, for instance, her nail-polish paintings: Ads and features from "gentlemen's magazines," she says, are flattened by layers of pearly to sparkly lacquer, sometimes only barely concealing the raunchy material beneath. The polish is whimsical and disarming in contrast to the smut it simultaneously hides and highlights.

"I believe that taking an image of a woman who is being objectified and changing it into a shimmering silhouette makes the image into something beautiful," Weisberg explains, "while hopefully provoking the viewer to think about the context shift and how it may relate to their relationship with those types of images."

The overlapping of two opposing ideas defines Weisberg's work. A sign the artist designed that overlooks NW First Avenue in Fort Lauderdale reads "She comes first" in all-capital, pink-sequined letters.

"I love the multiple meanings of the phrase. Is it sexual? Is it about your mother, sister, wife, or daughter? Or does it make the viewer think about what a matriarchal society would be like?"

Though it's easy to categorize the work as feminist, its ambiguity allows meaning to bubble up slowly from what looks superficial. This approach to glamour played a large part in choosing mediums; like her native South Florida, its beauty is part of what makes it captivating.

"You cannot get that type of iridescent, holographic, metallic, and pearlescent quality with any regular paint," Weisberg says of nail polish. "I love the fact that it dazzles the eyes." 

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Taylor Estape