“Usually the scarier the process seems, the more rewarding,” Nikki Leone
With a small team of volunteers, a truck load of cardboard and dozens of hot glue sticks, artist Nikki Leon can create a dramatic event aesthetic
Since interning at Virginia MOCA and working as a creative display artist at Town Center’s Anthropologie, local creative Nikki Leone has made the move to full-time artist. Driven by her desire to raise her young daughter and have time to be active in her community, Leone now accepts artistic projects with a discerning eye. Her name might sound familiar after the media blitz in July surrounding Pusha-T’s Cavalier wedding and Leone’s ambitious creative direction for the reception which landed her amongst stars like Kim Kardashian and Kayne West. This month, she was asked by a friend to participate in the ViBe Creative District’s first annual Virginia Beach Monster Mash to design event artwork. Leone jumped at the chance to get creative and give back to the local artist community.
Artist Nikki Leone painting cardboard artwork. Image courtesy of the artist’s Instagram account @poplar_pine
Where did you find the inspiration for this project?
My friend Chase Pittman started in a great direction of a “totem” type structure on either side of the stage. From there I decided to go with the classic monster faces that everyone can recognize but strayed away from the expected color palette. We wanted something fun and vibrant! I was also considering the environment this was going to be in, the geometric patterns on the stage and the branding of the ViBe District . It really needed to be kind of primitive in the structure and the “drawing” of the character faces. Since the totem heads were so stagnant we needed to add some movement by adding some flying bats. I think we pulled it off perfectly.
How do you tackle low-budget, highly creative artworks like these?
A lot of it is choosing the right materials. There are tons of everyday materials out there that can be manipulated in a way that it starts to become this other thing. Q-tips for example, bundled up tight they can be the center for a dramatic flower, or dipped in wax and they can become coral on a reef. Most of these transformations take a lot of time, so it relies on a lot of people coming in and helping bring it to life.
So, community…it really comes down to the support of those around me, something like this couldn’t have been done without the volunteers and some cardboard supplies and transportation supplied by WRV – Wave Riding Vehicles . Also, Three Ships Coffee went above and beyond to let us use their new roasting space for us to get creative in–It’s also going to be the future studio for the ceramic artist Cat Sellers!
A volunteer helps add elements of design. Image courtesy of the artist’s Instagram @Nikki_Leone
As a full-time artist, what advice do you have for younger aspiring artists?
Don’t get stuck with safe. Usually the scarier the process seems, the more rewarding. Get Experience. Experiment. Explore all the making you want to do, it will build your visual and building vocabulary in Art.
What ways do you enjoy connecting to your local artist community?
The Virginia MOCA is where I started out when I moved back here to Virginia, so whenever they ask for support during an install I jump at the offer. I owe a lot to them, I literally would not be where I am without them giving me the experiences they have. There’s also this amazing “surf non-competition” competition here called Logstradamus . It’s the brain child of Chase Pittman. Every year it gets more and more magical, like this guy has ALL the ideas and he has this knack for attracting stupid good talent. Top notch musicians and artists travel come from all over, even the surfers are coming from all corners of the US. It would be silly NOT to want to be a part of something like that. I’m just generally excited to be a part of all this fresh creative energy that’s happening here.
Nikki Leone sculptures with DJ Kevin Warren at the VB Monster Mash. Photography by Photogenesis Photography.
If you missed Nikki’s monster sculptures at the Virginia Beach Monster Mash event, look for them on the beach at the Logstradamus event in June 2019. Follow the artist on https://www.instagram.com/poplar_pine/ for news on future workshops and opportunities to meet the artist.