Tag Archives: patterns

Show Of Hands

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you love trips to the museum and trips to the manicurist, Imagine Uhlenbrock is your one-stop shop for a day of art, style, and self-care all rolled into one stunning experience.

Uhlenbrock is the “nail genie” and artist behind Just Imagine Nails. Keratin is her canvas and her work is constantly showing on the hands of happy clients throughout Omaha.

“I started doing my own nails when I was about 4, because I was an only child and it was something I could do for myself,” Uhlenbrock says.

Her interest in nail art grew through middle school and high school, culminating in her first steady nail job at a downtown Omaha salon. It was meant to be her college job, but Uhlenbrock loved the craft so much she launched her own business doing natural, ethical nails at age 19.

For those skeptical that a manicurist can be a “real” artist, one look at Uhlenbrock’s vibrant Instagram portfolio provides ample evidence of her artistry and talent. Intricate, hand-painted designs, patterns, and messages mingle with hand-placed bling. Colors and textures pop, and unique, creative themes inspire the urge to scroll right on down the rabbit hole because no two sets are alike and your eyeballs will want to collect them all.

 

 “It’s just like commissioning any other piece of art,” Uhlenbrock says. “I always have ideas, so I have clients who just come in and let me do whatever I want every two weeks, or sometimes they come in with a theme or idea in mind. Most of the time it’s a collaborative process and we customize it based on the vision and what they’re feeling like that week.”

This process has resulted in galaxy nails, Vegas- and beach-themed vacation nails, desert sunset nails, snowflake and Christmas nails, Fourth of July “red, white, and bling” nails, Ouija board nails, Netflix and chill nails, ice cream and French fry nails, nails that are geometric, plaid, rainbow, floral, color-blocked, gradient, holographic or chrome, and nails that mimic abstract paintings, among others.

“I take inspiration from everywhere. The print of your dress, the pattern of that chair, the texture of this pillow, someone’s artwork,” Uhlenbrock says.

Then there are the pop culture nails. She’s done sets that honor artists including Eartha Kitt, Prince, Beyoncé, and Frida Kahlo, that appreciate cultural icons ranging from Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson to Grumpy Cat, that recognize the Broadway Hamilton phenomenon, that reference literature from Harry Potter to local author Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, and that celebrate TV shows from The Golden Girls to The Powerpuff Girls. Her popular annual Halloween special has taken inspiration from The Addams Family, Stranger Things, The X-Files, and Hocus Pocus sets, as well as one of her personal all-time favorites: Michael Jackson “Thriller” nails.

“You can see from my themes that I like weird,” Uhlenbrock says. “I’ll put anything on a nail as long as it’s not problematic.”

Uhlenbrock’s political work is also incredibly compelling. She’s done anti-pipeline nails, Black Lives Matter nails, and nails that read “Go Vote,” among others.

“One of the roles of an artist is to get people to think or to spread certain messages. Nail art is no different than any other art form in that way,” Uhlenbrock says. “That’s how art and social justice can intersect by creating visuals, sounds, or whatever the medium to raise awareness, to educate, or to relieve pain and pressure for the oppressed. So, a lot of what I do is people’s regular self-care.”

In December 2016, Uhlenbrock opened her Hand of Gold Beauty Room space in the Fair Deal Village Marketplace, near 24th and Lake streets. She currently shares the space with two subcontractors, Qween Samone and Ria Gold, who help support the service menu of natural nails, makeup, and braiding. Uhlenbrock enjoys working in the thriving area among neighboring small business owners and she’s committed to using her space to support her peers.

“We support small businesses here,” Uhlenbrock says. “Economic disenfranchisement has been a huge tool of oppression against people of color. So, it’s really important to me as I grow and have my own economic development to reach out and empower others through that as well.”

Uhlenbrock stocks body care products from Lincoln-based Miss Kitty and Her Cats, pieces from Omaha’s Amaral Jewelry, and gets all of her regular polishes from Ginger + Liz, a black woman-owned, vegan-friendly, toxin-free nail lacquer company. She also sells jewelry from her other business, The Bigger the Hoops.

Besides providing an important platform for a network of artists and makers, the petite Hand of Gold Beauty Room just feels like a place you want to be. A plush, amber-colored couch beckons from the pedicure platform that Uhlenbrock and her mother hand-built. The walls are decked with striking work by Lincoln artist Brittany Burton, featuring black-and-white depictions of “thick” women with sparse flashes of green and yellow. Soul music fills the air and large windows let ample natural light stream in.

“Everyone should probably go to a therapist, but not everyone does—some people get their nails done instead,” Uhlenbrock says. “They can come here, have a good conversation, and leave feeling like a million bucks with something good to look at for a couple weeks. It’s a lot easier to feel like you have your shit together when your nails are on point.”

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

What Happened to My Lincoln Logs?

September 17, 2015 by

The interwebs tell me that the academic term I’ve been searching for is something called “structured block play.” You know, LEGOS, building blocks, and the like.

My 5-year-old grandson, Easton, is particularly enthralled with structured block play. Such toys in the hands of growing minds have many benefits in childhood development. Besides the obvious of honing fine motor skills—that ability to dope out how this piece fits into that one—there are higher cognitive functions at work here.

Children must be able to envision a finished product, one that begins with nothing more than a mental blueprint of their own making. They are confronted with a hodgepodge of disparate parts and must somehow envision a cohesive whole. Along the way they learn about spatial relationships, geometry, math, and problem-solving.

But that’s not Easton’s game.

He almost never sets out to build anything. Sure, he’ll occasionally erect a towering skyscraper of sorts, but his structured block play is almost always a lot less…well, structured.

He can occupy himself for what seems forever assembling intricate two-dimensional patterns on the floor, ones that seemingly serve no purpose other than to fuel his imagination. Some look like abstract art. Others evoke images reminiscent of those spindly models of molecules seen in science labs. The only common denominator appears to be the establishment and repetition of pattern for pattern’s sake.

Further distancing himself from the intended purpose of his toys, he eschews the “connectedness” functionality of the blocks. Instead of joining the pieces together, he lays them end-to-end.

Easton is usually at a loss for words in describing his convoluted creations, and I learned long ago to consider his installation art as something dwelling in the realm of the arcane, even the trippy.

I’d give anything to get inside Easton’s head to survey the workings of his brain as he puzzles through these puzzling arrays. Just what the heck is going on in that noodle of his as he conceives such fantastical explosions of variegated color?

I intended to begin this column reflecting on childhood memories of playing for hours on end with a set of Lincoln Logs. The problem is that such a statement would be a lie. It was impossible to tinker with toys like Lincoln Logs for any period of time without quickly losing interest. Maybe that’s because they represented an entirely different form of play, one decidedly lacking in possibilities compared to the limitless selection of block toys available today.

No, young children now have a more unfettered mode of play. Millennials are the first generation to have had the benefit of such free-association upbringings, and they’re the people who are defining a brave new world where imagination is the most prized of skills.

Baby Boomers like me had the endgame—the desired finished product—handed to them for all to see right there in the picture of a fort on that box of Lincoln Logs.

Easton is learning to think outside the box.

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Editor David Williams

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