Grace Miceli's favorite tattoo is a rose on her neck. It's one of twenty, joining an eagle bust on her left arm ("this was my 'America' tattoo when I was living in London and I guess I really missed it here"), a post-breakup switchblade on her forearm, and a number of delicate finger tats ("Duh," a cross, a dollar sign). The 27 year-old artist, curator, and stylist is based in NYC, though Art Baby Gallery—the exhibition space she manages—exists everywhere: it's online. Miceli's virtual exhibition space has been highlighting "YIBAs" (Young Internet-based Artists) since 2011, and recently had its first IRL exhibition at Alt Space Brooklyn. "Girls At Night On The Internet" featured work by Petra Collins, Arvida Byström, and Miceli herself, who is known online for her 90s-inflected marker drawings of snacks, Barbie cars, aliens, and flip phones. Her clothing line, Art Baby Girl, features dozens of these drawings on plain white Ts, onesies, and bralettes. The busy, stickers-on-a-laptop aesthetic of her clothing designs carries over into her tattoos, which Miceli says are her most complimented feature.
Broadly: Can you tell me more about your tattoos? What are they of, where are they, etc.?
Grace Miceli: They're on my arms mostly, and also both sides of my neck. A few are stick n' pokes, others were done at random shops in a few different cities—I'm loyal to no one. I started probably the week I turned 18, I was very ready. Unfortunately you can't get tattoos when you are 14 so my dreams of having identical tattoos to Joel from Good Charlotte were never realized but I do have "Gianni," my little brother's name, on my wrist; "Teen Idle" on the back of my left shoulder; a Bugatti drawn by my friend, the artist Luisa Rodriguez, on my left arm; an evil eye on my left wrist; an open mouth w/ big red lips on my top right wrist; a switchblade on my right forearm that I got after I was dumped; a sleepwalking boy on my inner right forearm; a dollar sign, cross, and "Duh" on different fingers; "27" on my left arm because when I was 20 I thought I was going to die at that age and now I'm that age so I hope I was wrong; "Buffy" on my left arm; A daisy with a smiley face on my right arm drawn by my friend Lauren; "Party" on my left leg; Some birds on the back of my neck; "Turn soft" left side of my neck—shoutout to Jenny Holzer; and a heart outline in between my boobs. I want my hands covered and if I'm being honest probably a face tat… it will be subtle though of course.
What kind of compliments do they normally garner? Who are they coming from and what are people saying?
I get strangers telling me they think my tattoos are really "cool." That's the most common word used. My favorite thing to do is bond with other women over my Buffy tattoo—I like to compete with them over how many times they have watched every season. I'm at five times. I can't think of a recent specific example of a compliment, but when I met Michael Cera he told me my tattoos were awesome and didn't really care what my name was or anything else about me.
Do you ever feel like people see your tattoos before they see you as a person?
They aren't as linked as some might presume, I think I'm a lot friendlier than my tattoos make me seem. I don't care really, I guess I receive most comments with a lukewarm but friendly "thanks" they're not something that I'm really conscious of. I get excited whenever I have a new one so I'm usually proud to show that off. My parents tell me they're a waste of money and roll their eyes whenever they notice a new one.
How do you feel when people comment on them?
Well, I'm the first one to say that my tattoos are "bad" in the sense that there is no real design or deep thought put in before they're done, I'm totally oblivious to any sort of serious tattoo culture or whatever, I like tattoos that are silly and cute and make you smile and kinda of look like you have little stickers all over you. It's a way to publicly assert your interests, that's what I like about them. And that the large amount of them scares men away from talking to me.
How are you with receiving compliments in general?
I think as a female you are kind of trained to be modest and deny compliments, which is a behavior I'm actively trying to unlearn. I love giving them, I want to only boost the confidence/self-esteem of the people I encounter whether it's work/friendship/family, especially the females in my life, most dudes I know don't need any additional self-esteem boosts.
What's the best compliment you've ever received, either on your tattoos or anything else?
When I was an angsty teen going through all my shit my mom made me a heart-shaped book full of compliments because she's like so amazing and my favorite line was "I love that you're not afraid of challenges."