Nails of New York: Alex Proba
July 8, 2017
This week's Nails of New York features artist Alex Proba, founder of an multidisciplinary design studio focusing on product, graphic, environmental, and furniture design and artwork. Some of Alex's work includes her poster-a-day series that she began four years ago, mix-and-match rugs for Coming Soon and Aelfie, Bower x Zenda collaborations, and custom pieces for CC-Tapis. In all she does, Alex continues to push herself into new categories, all the while focusing on engaging with her community. Having done large-scale murals for Dropbox headquarters, Canal Street Market, and on Doyer Street, her gorgeous geometric shapes are a common backdrop to Instagram for many New Yorkers. Bringing her love of shapes to her nails, she uses manicures as a way to spend time with good friends, as a memory of her grandmother, and a way to feel composed.
What is your first memory of a woman with great nails?
My grandmother always used to have her nails painted in an amazing iridescent rose color. When I was little, I couldn't stop staring at them and when I was ten years old she gave me my first iridescent rose manicure. I've been a nail girl ever since.
When do you notice your nails/hands the most and why?
As an artist I am working with my hands all day long. They need as much love as they can get, so it's always a treat to have my nails painted.
In one word how does a mani make you feel?
How do you pick your design?
To be honest, I never know what I'm getting. There are too many great options to choose from. My dear friend Laura and I usually go together, and we have a full discussion the day before and by the time we've arrived, we've changed our minds again.
What brought you to the States from Germany?
After grad school I was asked to come to New York to work on an installation project in the summer of 2011. At the time I didn't have a plan on what was next, and I basically never left–my career is what has kept me here for almost six years now. New York has been an incredible city to launch my art career. It makes you hustle, never stop, and work kind of all the time. New York City kicks your butt (in a good way!).
What prompted your "a poster a day" project?
It started rather spontaneously when I was working on a project late one night and felt extremely stuck and uninspired. Usually, I would take a break by reading or watering my plants to get creativity flowing again. I started playing around with images instead, creating beautiful graphics by playing around with random shapes and colors, without overthinking what I was designing. While having fun with shapes, lines, and imagery, I realized how happy it made me to create for the sake of beauty. And so I challenged myself to make a poster every day with time being the only restriction. At one point I realized this had become more than just a daily routine–it's become my personal diary. When I look back at posters, I can often recall what happened the day I created it. It restores my past, and that is magical.
How have you evolved this project?
When I was close to finishing my year one of a poster-a-day series, I decided to make the project Yours, focusing on the community of people daily looking at my posters. People around the world were submitting their stories to me, and I would translate these visually. This was such an incredible year for me to work so intimately with humans I would normally have never met. Every story is unique and they are all so different, and I feel like I am doing something more purposeful. The third year was a conversation between my community and myself called, Ours, and I've just finished year four called Her that celebrated Women, and any life they touched.
What is a favorite project you've worked on?
I've only recently discovered my love and passion for murals. My dear friend and fellow designer, Aaron Robbs, and I were commissioned to design and paint a 60 foot mural for the Dropbox HQ last fall. Neither of us had done work in such a scale before but once we completed it, I realized how much joy it brings me to transform spaces in such a simple but impactful way.
When do you get your best ideas?
Usually in my dreams after a long day where I didn't feel very creative. I tend to dream about projects that I want to do but about solutions in moments where I am stuck on a project. I also take inspiration from everyday life. Our day to day gives us the inspiration we need–just don't forget to look around you (and up and down!).