Fusing the past with the present, Side Dimes’ bold and irreverent art is sure to put a smile on your face.
We chatted with artist Mikayla Lapierre about her motivation behind Side Dimes, her dynamic mash-up of pop culture and 17th and 18th century art, and life as an art director inside her quiet Brooklyn borough.
Tell me about you, paint a picture—what’s a day in the life of Mikayla look like? What’s your neighborhood look like? Your studio space?
I’m living in Brooklyn, New York in a quiet section of the borough filled with families. And strollers. Lots and lots of strollers. And then there’s me and my roommate. Two 26-year-olds and best friends (and the youngest residents of the neighborhood). We live in a pretty big apartment (for NYC, at least) railroad style in a five floor walkup. There are plenty of hidden gems in the area, but my favorite is a set of benches tucked in The Brooklyn Heights Promenade that overlooks the Manhattan skyline. You can find me here listening to Lorde, basking in sunlight (and sometimes blue light), and drinking a large cold brew with a lot of cream (yes, cream). My day job, which frequently rolls into a night and weekend job, is at a big advertising agency with big clients. I spend my days brainstorming, creating and pitching. Then changing those ideas. Pitching them again. Making more changes. And eventually pushing something out into the world. The process is radically different from Side Dimes, where I can dream something up, bring it to life, and instantly share it with my following. I carve out time for Side Dimes for the after after after hours, where I can get lost in different ideas for making the paintings come to life and get into the details in every pixel of the paintings, with a chi and peanut M&M’s in hand.
Where do you go to find inspiration (physically, digitally and/or mentally)?
I have always been fascinated with art that revolved around ideas like current events, pop culture, feminism, equality, modern-day language, social norms, and rebellion. The idea of merging all these contemporary topics with a time period of art that excluded women expressing or experiencing those same topics feels like the ultimate rebellion. I like to think my work gives a voice to the women of these centuries and gives them a new meaning, while still celebrating the beauty of the original piece.
When I create my pieces, I start with a concept. Usually, this concept comes to me from something that’s currently happening in the world. A new song I can’t get out of my head, a subject people can relate to—like my “Banning The Bra” series, or “Ladies Who Commute” series—the recent pandemic, and even a love for nostalgic food. I then search for the perfect painting amongst the thousands I have researched and saved for these very moments. But sometimes it’s the opposite; I find a painting that has a composition that I can’t resist, and I come up with a concept based on the painting right then and there.
How did you first arrive upon your artistic POV? What was it about the 17th and 18th century paintings that drew you in?
I started Side Dimes in 2018. I was on my way home from work on the subway and was dreaming about finally putting pen to paper (or hands to keyboard?). Years before that, the idea of collaging 17th and 18th century art came to me during my time at art school. I took four years of art history (yes, very exciting) and spent a lot of my time doodling on paintings in my textbook. I started creating pieces that I would post on my personal Instagram. Most of the time, the pieces only made sense to me and what was going on in my life ( a lot of nostalgic food and men references). I was getting good feedback from my friends, and I continued making them every chance I could. It wasn’t until later, when I was living in Brooklyn, I came to the idea of giving my work a stage name—its own Instagram and shop here on Society6.
What role do you see art playing in the world and society at large?
This idea of collaging new elements into old works of art isn’t a new one. There are plenty of artists that borrow from paintings and make them new again. I knew if I wanted my work to stand out I had to be different. I needed my work to be driven by a concept, like things people are talking about. Something shareable, relatable, and smart that you can’t help but post on your story and send to your friends. So kinda like a MEME, but no one wants to hang a meme up in their home. (Actually, if I could frame the “I like turtles” video I would.) I spend a lot of time crafting these pieces so it communicates clearly but looks like it has been missing from the painting all these years. The familiarity of old works of art and being able to relate to the piece in its modern day rebellion is, I believe, the driving force behind people’s excitement in discovering Side Dimes.
Could you talk about the success of your “Quarantine Series”? Where did the inspiration come from there?
At the very beginning of the pandemic, I was faced with what most creative people we’re going through, lack of work and struggling to find inspiration in uncertainty. My full time job significantly slowed down, and what I knew as my everyday life in New York came to a halt. Side Dimes has always been a creative escape for me. I find the most comfort and joy when I’m creating a new piece. “The Quarantine Series” was created out of an attempt to make people smile during a time when we couldn’t escape the news—especially on social media. My friend and I had an idea to show what was a very new idea at the time, social distancing and wearing a mask, in a way that felt light-hearted—something we hadn’t seen yet. The series shows beautiful Victorian women in full glam, sitting around, hoarding toilet paper and avoiding men. People resonated with the series, it got some good press and Lena Dunham even reposted “Quarantine Queen” to her feed. But, the coolest part of this series was seeing people getting prints and gifting them to friends they couldn’t be with during the past year. It’s a series that did a lot for my following on social media, and I will forever look back on and remember the year we all went through.
I’m always interested in how artists arrive upon their shop names, so Side Dimes… what’s the story behind that name?
Hmm, this is always my favorite question, and I haven’t figured out the right way of describing it yet. Side Dimes was inspired by the term “side piece.” Since this started off as a side project of mine, taking paintings of the beautiful women of the 17th and 18th century, the term “dime” came to play. “Dime” means “a 10” or you know, a hot woman. I also wanted to reclaim a sometimes negative word to talk about women, just like I’m doing for the women in the paintings.
What’s next? Any big projects (that you can discuss…) coming up? Anything you’ve always wanted to tackle creatively?
The beauty of Side Dimes is I get to follow along with pop culture and current events as they happen. So most of my pieces are created on the spot, with the exception of some series being planned for the future. I think what you can expect to see from me is more collaborations with brands, different types of paintings and etchings, and overall just more exploration into the world of Side Dimes.