Vibrant, sensual and reflective, Nicole Ruggiero’s work has taken both the universe and the metaverse by storm. As a 3D artist, their pieces range from stills to animation to Virtual Reality, and they have also curated various impactful exhibitions that uplift underrepresented voices. In this interview, they discuss the intersection of art and technology, their experience as a queer person in the digital art space, and what we can do to increase inclusivity within the art community.
Firstly, could you please introduce yourself and give a bit of background on what you do?
I’m Nicole Ruggiero and I am a 3D artist. A lot of my work has to do with technology and the communities and culture it creates. I got really into digital art through online forums, video games, and manga when I was a kid. I started out drawing, painting digitally and doing animation. I studied Graphic Design in college and then started doing 3D art in 2015.
Your art is heavily centred around the culture of technology – you explore the internet, the metaverse, Artificial Intelligence, etc. What is it about technology that is so inspiring to you?
When I was a kid, I had a pretty rough life. Technology allowed me to connect with people online who I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. It got me into art, Japanese culture and music, and it helped me make good friends all over the world. I always thought of it as kind of a lifeline.

You’re a 3D artist and a lot of your work features these very detailed and surreal avatars. What kind of process goes into creating these pieces?
It depends on the work, but I spend a lot of time conceptualising what I want each avatar to look like. Sometimes I use premade base models, and other times I sculpt completely from scratch. My process almost always begins with sketching. I plan on continuing to sculpt more and using premade assets less and getting more into virtual production. I’m really excited about that.
Something that I find really cool is how you combine reality and the metaverse. For example, in How The Internet Changed My Life, you feature both avatars and real people, and you also use Virtual Reality and face filters to make it an immersive experience. Why do you blur the line between reality and the metaverse?
Those lines are very, very blurry. A lot of my friends I know by their handles, not their given names. Personally, I meet most of my friends in the metaverse first, and then in real life later – and a lot of them take their online identities with them. I feel more like an observer. I love watching people create niche cultures and get so creative with who they are online and how that translates into real life.
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How The Internet Changed My Life, Franziska Von Guten
You create art in a variety of forms – animations, stills, VR worlds and even games. When you get inspiration from something, how do you decide on the way you’re going to portray it?
I like to research new technology and when I find something I’m really interested in becoming more accessible to consumers, I usually try to incorporate it into the conceptual inspiration that I’m finding. I like to use new technology in my work because I like to share with my audience what new tech is coming up so that they can learn about it too. Obviously, I have to make sure it works with my artistic concepts as well, but it’s usually not so hard to integrate the two since both inspirations usually intermingle for me.
For instance, for How The Internet Changed My Life, we used hand tracking and VR, which feel really immersive. This went well with our concept behind the project, which essentially is about integrating identity both online and offline. Because you are using your hands and not controllers in the VR, it feels a lot more natural and blends the lines between the virtual and the real.
Are there any art forms that you have yet to explore and hope to do so in the future?
I’m going to be getting into 3D printing and virtual production. Likely more so the latter, but 3D printing for some physicals and perhaps some little collectables too. I’m excited about the virtual production because it’ll be more performance-based, which will be really fun for me. Animation can be really slow and tedious, but this should speed it up a bit.
While queer artists have been pioneers in digital art, they are often underrepresented. What has your experience been trying to make space for yourself as a queer person in the crypto art and digital art scene?
It’s hard for sure! I try not to get angry about it, though, and be thankful for the opportunities I get. I think I feel more anger about the lack of inclusion of the LGBTQI+ community as a whole, rather than just myself. Things are getting better but there is still so much struggle in the community. There are so many individuals who are afraid to be out and open because of the risk that it brings. It’s harder to connect with the men who are in power, even if they are queer friendly because there are so many other guys they can relate to more and I think that’s likely easier for them. It’s disappointing but I try anyway and sometimes it works out! You just have to keep trying and hopefully, the men who are in power start feeling more comfortable sharing that with more queer individuals, especially lesbians, trans people, non-binary individuals and all queer people of colour.
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How The Internet Changed My Life, Molly Soda
You’ve been in this industry for quite some time now. How has it evolved since you started and in what direction do you think it’s heading in terms of inclusivity?
The 3D art industry was heavily leaning on Tumblr and Instagram when I started. It has since branched out quite a bit as technology has become more and more accessible. I’ve seen artists get into NFTs, TikTok, Vtubing, fashion, virtual production, music videos, all kinds of things. A lot of artists combine two or more of those niches.
You co-curated Women in Net Art for Vice to bring women to the forefront of an art world dominated by men. A lot of the time we talk about making art to uplift communities and we forget that how we showcase art can also have an impact on representation. How do you hope to use your curations to uplift underrepresented voices?
It’s great to have a platform to highlight underrepresented voices but I think a lot of change is going to come from men. I think it is mostly on men in power to shift the dynamic by becoming more inclusive and also becoming more okay with sharing power with women. This can be done by acquiescing to some positions that are normally taken by men and giving them to qualified women and other underrepresented individuals. This can also be done by reaching out and asking for recommendations for capable women, beyond what is the most obvious, asking friends and really searching, rather than just assuming there are no qualified women and that by default, the position must go to a man
These ideas also extend to interviews, highlights, exhibitions, etc. It is most important to include women not just in exhibitions and highlights about women, but also in exhibitions and highlights that are about various themes that have nothing to do with gender. Curation can be run by women and highlight women, and while this does create small changes, I would also love to see some women really sharing the higher power dynamics in companies and really pushing the movement forward. This goes for queer, non-binary, and underrepresented communities as well. This will continue to trickle down and will create more opportunities for these underrepresented individuals and create more diversity.
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How The Internet Changed My Life, Toshi Salvino
Recently, you also co-curated Icons x SuperTrans, a physical gallery of only transgender and non-binary artists. What did the curation process look like for this project?
So, Icons was actually about the LGBTQI+ community as a whole, which was curated by Sam Clover (planttdaddii) and me, and we opened alongside SuperTrans, which was about transgender and non-binary artists.
For this curation, we highlighted individuals who are at the forefront of making waves in both the LGBTQI+ community and the art community. We wanted to highlight and honour the risk these individuals are taking by being so loud, proud and out, and acknowledge the strength and hope they are giving to the queer community as a whole.
Could you tell us about any other projects you’re currently working on?
Currently, I am working on a group exhibition with Van Ham, the largest auction in Germany, in which I will be sharing both digital and physical work. That will be auctioned off on December 1. I can’t talk too much about the concept for that yet, but I’m really excited and I’ll be doing some 3D prints for that one. I am also working on an ongoing long-form collaboration with my partner planttdaddii and we will also be releasing some more of our collectables, Meemz, soon.
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Nicole Ruggiero - let me grab my ledger
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Powerful, Crown Series
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Whimsical, Crown Series
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Reminders of Self Care
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Escapism Room
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Achievement Unlocked: Touch Grass, Collaboration with planttdaddii