UC Berkeley student Nicole Larinde speaks on Instagram as art

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Name: Nicole Larinde

Age: 19

Hometown: San Clemente, California — a small beach town Larinde thinks not many people will know of. Santa Ana is her self-described home away from home.

Current residence: Berkeley, California, on the Clark Kerr Campus.

Wearing: Mismatched golden hoop earrings and a black and white floral patterned top, though at a previous meeting, she wore a ribbed yellow turtleneck she personally stamped with the image of a barking Doberman pinscher.

Who she is: The UC Berkeley freshman dabbles in all kinds of art, from filmography to guitar playing to altering her thrift store clothing finds. But for Larinde, art is mostly about images — how things look, how they photograph and how those photographs can be paired together for an Instagram post.

Her voice: Nicole Larinde instantly appears a product of sultry Southern California — bleached beach waves pulled back from her cheeks, her fingers running through the loose ends hanging around her shoulders — as I walk up to the table she’s chosen at the back corner of the coffee shop, a little bit late.

“It’s totally fine,” Larinde says, generously denying my apology outright. But, she reminds me, she has to leave the coffee shop at about 5:40 p.m. — she’s going to a workout class — “yeah, but it’s chill,” she tells me. Like I said: a product of Southern California.

Larinde doesn’t want to drink any coffee before she works out, so I sit down and turn on my recorder. I ask her to tell me what she likes. Immediately, she tells me what it was like to study the arts at a charter school in Orange County.

“I was in an integrated arts conservatory, so when you first start out, you kind of take a bunch of generic arts classes — like, you take things from visual arts to music classes to videography, all types of different things. So it’s kind of cool because you get to dip your toe into different types of arts,” Larinde says.

So later, when she tells me she is here to study society and the environment, I ask with more surprise than is kosher, “You’re a science major?”

She laughs politely and humors me: “Science and art? I think they really go hand in hand, and I think they kind of balance each other out a lot. I think, like, art is definitely something that’s very calming, and science can sometimes get a little bit stressful, depending on what kind of science it is. And obviously I love that, but I feel like … you have to be able to kind of access your creative side of your brain.”

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peep the salon

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The conversation slowly returns to the specifics of her art. Larinde’s art is fluctuating. At first she tells me it’s screenwriting and filming documentaries and playing in a band. Then later: silk-screen printing, design, fashion photography. Even later: “I’ve actually recently been kind of interested in architecture, too.”

This, I gather, is what happens when you attend a selective arts school for six years where you study in one of 11 specialized conservatories: privileged dabbling.

Larinde speaks of herself as an artist. Her art school has made her grow into who she wants to be “as an artist,” she says, though she is dedicated more to her perception of artistry than to anything more concrete — aesthetics over creation.

“I really like the design aspect and the aesthetic of fashion, so like, why this lays on a body like this and, like, what that means aesthetically,” Larinde says, tugging at her sleeve.

As she continues to tell me about the visual role of fashion, I ask her about social media and its role in the accessibility of art — whether social media may even be a medium in its own right. “I think (Instagram) can be artistic in the sense that it’s aesthetically pleasing,” Larinde muses. “I’m really into photography, so like I like to post my photos, and I like how they all look together.”

We talk a little bit more, moving from photography to film — color schemes, directors, the #MeToo movement. And then I look at the clock on my laptop. It’s 5:38 p.m. I start to wrap things up.

I leave the interview feeling a little frazzled. I don’t think I’ve gotten to know Larinde, what her ambitions truly are. Later, I look up her Instagram.

Larinde’s Instagram is full of beige trench coats, deadpan expressions and tangerines. There are silver sunglasses, neon fast-food restaurant signs and sand dunes. In one post, an amalgamation of these elements: Larinde poses, deadpan, in front of a neon-rimmed storefront of a hair salon, wearing a trenchcoat. It’s captioned “peep the salon.”

Curated yet eclectic, earnest yet disconnected — it’s then that I feel like I know her.

“Sounding Off” profiles feature members of Berkeley’s artistic community and their perspectives on the art world at large.

Olivia Jerram is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].