In the Studio with Nicole Della Costa

Brazilian born, New York based multi-disciplinary artist Nicole Della Costa explores her ideas primarily through video, painting and poetry. We met with Nicole to tell us more about her practice and journey to where she is today.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist? 

In my early 20s, after I moved to New York. It took me a while to understand the concept of an artist outside its formal and traditional descriptions. I guess I was not paying much attention to it in my teenage years as I was more familiar with teleprompters. I used to write and host for a tv show and my goal was to be a VJ at MTV. But I also really wanted to move to New York, so when I reached the age I could somewhat make decisions for myself I found good reasons (to convince my parents) to come here and my dreams and goals got rearranged.

Photographed by Jasper Briggs
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I am from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I grew up in Barra da Tijuca, in this complex of high-rise colorful buildings called Alfa Barra right by the beach. It is a very peculiar and beautiful area, often disregarded by people who live in the traditional Zona Sul area, where I went to high school. Barra is where families from poorer neighbourhoods like Penha or Tijuca (where part of my family is from) go to live when they move up in life, so it is seen as the “Nouveau Rich” neighbourhood.

Barra is beautiful, funny and is where our awful president Bolsonaro lives; all the buildings are new and it is very Americanized – we have a shopping mall that is called New York City Center and holds a 114-foot tall replica of the Statue of Liberty. I love it. It is a high-low element that is very big in my work, my interests, and how I see the world. Living in that neighbourhood and in its paradoxical state shaped me to make sure that nothing should be disregarded or delegitimised as a not-authentic characteristic of people or a place.

Photographed by Jasper Briggs
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience?  

I accidentally did. I started at film school but it was too technical without enough readings. So I changed to a program called Visual and Critical Studies where you do get a lot of readings and work in different mediums. Everything came to place and it all started to make sense from that point on, my mind got reconditioned to work with no limitations while still working within my limits.

Squeeze, by Nicole Della Costa
What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic?

I try to convey and gather what I have learned, what has been shared with me and what I can pass along––listening and creating an empathetic experience for myself, collaborators, and the viewer/reader.

Photographed by Jasper Briggs

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? 

I like to plan as I don’t like to waste materials. No audience in my mind, but I do like commissions and deadlines. Anything that makes me discipline myself.

Who and what are your greatest influences?

Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore are always in my mind. I recently discovered Wanda Coleman and Madeline Gins – she reminds me of the Brazilian poet and actor Michel Melamed, whose book Regurgitofagia was laying around my house growing up. His poems are playful and interactive, he uses questionnaires and a lot of blank spaces for the reader to fill out. I guess that is very appealing for children, I was immediately drawn to it. 

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

Just putting myself to work and trusting that I will find something. I always thought my ideal condition was all alone in a house somewhere secluded with no human contact but that has never happened, probably because I still need to get my driver’s license.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise? How has your art evolved? 

My psychic told me to publish my writings, that was big. 

Photographed by Jasper Briggs

How have you been keeping creative during isolation?

I’ve been very lucky during this pandemic and had a book project to work on. I spent most days scanning all of my journals from the past 7 years, organising ephemera, and editing my poems with two amazing editors Kate Eringer and Lou Alencar who just started the publishing company Pois é. We are publishing the book early next year, it is called ‘As Serious as a Hiccup’.

Photographed by Jasper Briggs


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