Art appreciation

Sojin Oh on creating anotherworldly nail art for Björk and Hunter Schafer


Sojin Oh is a strange performer of extremes. For the Los Angeles-based nail artist, inspiration comes from strains of bacteria, sea creatures and René Redzepithe transport of mushrooms. Lil nas x recently shone in Oh’s pearl chrome nails; Hunter Schafer wore a crystalline ensemble at the Met Gala. “The sublime beauty of the natural world makes me be adventurous,” says the Korean native certified in diving. But there is an ominous undercurrent in these nails of fire and ice, shadowed by the realities of living in a state that is steadily on fire. Oh cites lava as a muse because it is “seen as destructive and violent, but it also creates and generates new life.” Even though Oh dreams one day of designing nails for a sci-fi movie, she hopes her work, embellished with water droplets or gecko spots – inspires solidarity with Mother Earth.

In tandem with this hellish winter look created for Vanity Fair, photographed by Adrienne Raquel, Oh shares his favorite nature documentaries, a new musical muse and his dream collaborators for the coming year.

Vanity Show: Water and ice are recurring elements in your creations. Where did you find your inspiration?

Sojin Oh: In 2016, I went scuba diving in Tulum for the first time, and the coral reef’s kaleidoscope of shapes, colors and patterns imprinted on me. Since then, I have been fully certified in diving. Growing up in South Korea, I frequented the tidal pools with my grandmother in Haenam-gun, where she went oyster hunting, which gave me a predilection for water. One of my favorite instagram accounts, @waterbod, amazingly documents the creatures of California’s tidal pools. I love the fossils section of the Natural History Museum and the Monterey Bay Aquarium – they interest me more than art museums these days. David Attenboroughit’s a lot BBC series are often in rotation when I cannot go out and experience the gifts of nature in the flesh. I think it opened the eyes of many people to the amazing biodiversity, and although a somewhat selfish appreciation of this beauty changes a perspective and leads to material change, it is very beneficial. More recently, Fantastic mushrooms on Netflix has been a favorite. Chef René Redzepi, who searches for rare and edible plants and mushrooms, is for me a great example of how exploring nature can inform a creative practice.

A tribute to frozen flowers in winter.

Photograph courtesy of Sojin Oh.

How has being in California shaped your eye for nature?

Living in California, it’s obvious that we humans who caused global climate change are responsible for taking care of this planet. I consider nature to be Mother Nature, and when your mother is getting old or sick, it is the child’s duty to take care of her. Like the Attenborough films, I hope the depiction of nature in my nail designs will inspire green thinking. Individuals, myself included, can continue to take small steps to do better every day while ensuring that we hold businesses and governments accountable for the bigger actions we need to take. I am very touched by the work Greta Thunberg Is it that. We are privileged to experience such sensory diversity here in California, but it is constantly threatened by the effects of climate change. These utopian and dystopian visions of Mother Earth are reflected in my work.

What techniques did you use to create these two fire and ice nail designs? Did you have specific benchmarks?

I am very inspired by lava (one of my cats is called Lava) because it embodies this utopian / dystopian dualism. Lava is considered destructive and violent, but it also creates and generates new life. Icicles represent how time freezes and captures minimalist absence or nothingness in clear forms. To create the two sets I used a building gel, which is similar to resin, and I let gravity take control of the shape by flipping the nail over and letting gravity sculpt the gel. On the ice nails I added glass tips made by Grace wardlaw to make it more realistic and crystalline.