Helikon Gallery is honored to be working with artist Nomi Chi for the first time in this year’s ‘Muses of Mount Helikon V.’ Nomi keeps busy as a tattoo artist by day, but has also gained a massive social media following for her prolific creation of illustrations and fine art. Nomi’s work is full of stylized depictions of the female body that lay distinctly outside the heteronormative, Western ideals of beauty that continue to dominate so much of art and illustration. These bodies are curvy with soft bellies, covered in tattoos and hairy, sometimes morphed with other animals or possessing four arms, and all rendered in the artist’s folksy fine-lined hand. Her works are at once sensual, vulnerable, questioning, mystical, and deeply in touch with nature. Read on for Nomi’s thoughts on her ideal day, her consistent and changing influences, and her studio habits.
Helikon Gallery: What does your perfect day look like?
Nomi Chi: I wake up before my alarm goes off. I dress myself in lizard skins, dried flowers, and sheer black fabric. As I do my makeup my eyeliner and eyebrows take like 3 minutes total and come out immaculate. It is overcast and crisp outside, it has just rained and the air smells fresh and feels cool on my skin — and I am basically naked but no one bothers me on my way to get my semisweet, spiced, decaffeinated seasonal beverage. Actually, some nice femme people tell me that I look fierce, and I tell them they look fierce too. At work I make tattoos on other people and we talk about memes and anime. After a nice dinner (pho!) with my partner, we go to the beach and he waves goodbye as I walk into the black water.
HG: Who are some of your current influences or inspirations? Have they changed over time?
NC: There are too many to name! Immediately coming to mind are illustrators Sab Meynert and Jillian Tamaki, ceramicist Maggie Boyd, Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois and Erin M Riley. I love meditative or repetitive elements in art– I can imagine losing oneself in the process of making the work, as much as I lose myself in viewing the work. Lately I am also thinking about femme or woman-identified makers, and their thinking re: labor, craft, and high art. Overall my influences are always in flux; I try to be very open to art and approach new works with an open mind.
HG: Do you use any unusual or “non-traditional” media in your work?
NC: I recently built an installation piece which involved a giant foam head, a lot of stickers, pom-poms, lights, and strips of dried squid snacks hidden in the fabric lining.
HG: Outside of the craft you are known for, do you pursue any other artistic endeavors?
NC: My day job is to make tattoos on people, so tattooing is probably what I’m most known for. Lately I’ve been in the mood for starting ambitious, demanding-of-free-time projects which are not commercially driven– exciting and exhausting things, should they come to fruition! I also just finished a ceramics course and impulsively bought a bunch of screen printing stuff. I have a short attention span and a lot of nervous energy, so I have my fingers in many pies.
HG: What is something most people don’t know about you?
NC: I am terrified of needles.