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Paint & Polish

Cultural economy & visual culture from the Chicago West-side: a nail art studio and exhibition

Onomatopee 133

Exhibition will run from 27 May to 30 July 2017.

Open for business and conversation:
Friday 16:00 - 22:00, Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th, 12:00 to 18:00.

Saturday’s special at 16:30
talk with Chequita Nahar, juwelry designer and head fine art and design of the ABKM Maastricht.

The PAINT & POLISH nail-art studio by Chicago West Side creative entrepreneurs Jackee Blue and Glynnus Alexander will open to customers on Friday 26th, 16:00. The duo will continue doing nails and will be available to exchange artistic styles with local nail artists. They’ll also be hanging around on Saturday and Sunday for a chat. The studio walls will be covered in special wallpaper, designed by photographer/artist Maurene Cooper, inspired by the particular art of Chicago West-side nail art. Maurene will also be around.

This friendly take-over of the Onomatopee exhibition space is the result of the book Paint & Polish that Onomatopee helped edit and design. In the project Maurene Cooper sources visual inspiration from the microeconomic culture of Hispanic and African-American nail artists in the West Side of Chicago. Maurene’s project fosters engagement with these artists by highlighting their work and collaborating with them.





Onomatopee 133, Helen Maurene Cooper, 2017

Paint & Polish

€ 30

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Paint & Polish sources visual inspiration from the microeconomic culture of Hispanic and African-American nail artists in the Northwest Side of Chicago. It fosters engagement with these artists by highlighting their work and collaborating with them.

Included are oral histories, conversations with various nail artists, their portraits by Helen Maurene Cooper, and photography from their business. By documenting the community, this set of materials engages with it profoundly. Inspired by these sources and the visually tempting, distinct style of the nail art, Cooper’s photographic artworks open a gateway to elaborate on the visual identification of nail art.

In both photography and the nail art scene, concerns such as gesture, self-expression and labor are prominent. The accompanying writings take these issues into consideration.

EDITOR: Helen Maurene Cooper
AUTHORS: Ryan Kenneth Blocker, Roula Seikaly, Patricia Reed
TRANSLATORS / TEXTEDITORS: Marcus Moretti and Olga Livshin
GRAPHIC DESIGN: Astrid Yperlaan and Freek Lomme for Onomatopee

Made possible thanks to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs


The community of nail artists in the Northwest Side of Chicago releases a vibrant visual and cultural gesture. Sparked by distinction and thriving on its own terms, this economy shares joy equally between client and producer. By wearing its visual code, an individual becomes part of this economic base. The nail artist community even inspires celebrities to share in the pleasures of its culture.
Engaging us playfully in an outburst of visual sparks, shop owners Jackie Blue, Loretta Gonzalez, Alexis, Yara Fernandez and Glynnus Alexander make up the core group of Northwest Side shop owners who practice Chicago-style nail art. The community of salons comprises mothers and daughters, connected by both birth and mentorship, who have found long-term financial stability through craftsmanship and entrepreneurship.

An East Coast native who moved to Illinois to earn her MFA degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Maurene Cooper has lived and worked in the city’s Northwest Side for nearly a decade. She has experienced the thrill of adornment and empowerment in its nail salons and has continued to collaborate with nail artists and salon owners for over eight years. The documentary projects featured in this book are the fruit of her personal engagement with the women who own and work in nail salons in her neighborhood.
Cooper’s respect for the community shines through her work. She portrays the active social cohesion and mutual cooperation among nail salon community members and identifies the visual distinctiveness of this culture. In addition to this book’s visual pleasures, it tells the story of how a community positions itself socioeconomically, while acquainting the viewer with the visual gestures it practices.



330 x 279 mm / 13 x 11 inch portrait
Helen Maurene Cooper, Freek Lomme
Astrid Yperlaan and Freek Lomme for Onomatopee
Helen Maurene Cooper
threat-sewn and glued
full color
Unicum by Gianotten, Tilburg (NL)
mega shiny, special-golden foil type on cover
Marcus Moretti, Olga Livshin
Freek Lomme
more specs
Onomatopee 133.1, Helen Maurene Cooper, 2016

"Paint & Polish" Tablecloth

€ 100

Out of stock

100 euro per meter (width is 120 cm).
Note: we deliver rough fabric unless you pay extra.

Limited edition tablecloth.
Pattern "Paint & Polish"
Satin Deco fabric