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Regina Nicolas has made art at the University Union Gallery “officially urban.”

Nicolas, a studio art senior who said her life has been impacted by the hip-hop culture, will debut pieces she has created that are a culmination of the elements of hip-hop culture using a variety of mediums like acrylics and cardboard. Her work will be displayed in the UU Gallery through Jan. 20.

“I have been doing it all my life,” Nicolas said. “(Art) is something I love to do – anything hands on.”

Nicolas’ outlet was gymnastics until hip surgery at the age of 16 forced her to quit. In search of a new form of expression, she found her release in paintings and three-dimensional pieces.

“I (used to) write, but art has that power of the visual image,” Nicolas said. “Even in poetry there is still grammar that you have to deal with, but with art you (can) express everything and there is no wrong.”

Nicolas’ art takes inspiration from the four elements of hip-hop, which include DJ’s, graffiti, rap and break dancing, also known as “bee-boying.”

“I went to my first hip-hop show, Living Legends, in 1999 in Los Angeles,” Nicolas said. “It was the feeling (that attracted me); it was the fact that I wasn’t just going to listen to music. There were artists with art books doodling in the back, dancers, and everyone was really friendly. It was a different environment and had more of a feeling of community.”

Her exposure to hip-hop, along with the origins of the culture, gave her inspiration to continue creating unique art.

“I really like live music, but there is more of a cultural aspect to hip-hop,” Nicolas added. “Hip-hip has an art to it. Other genres have dances, but (hip-hop) incorporated more senses visually.”

Through her art, Nicolas wants to expose people to the music, because she feels there are many negative connotations associated with hip-hop such as guns, drugs and violence.

“What I wanted to do (with my art) was to bring it back to the fun that they had,” said Nicolas. “I wanted to bring back the four elements of what hip-hop is.”

Nicolas wants to cross the barriers and take what is generally seen as unwanted and turn it into something that people, who are anti-graffiti, would want to buy and display in their homes.

“I want them to enjoy the art. I hope when they see it, they smile,” Nicolas said. “My work is really playful and different, and when people find out it is related to hip-hip, (it will) create a better acceptance of a different aspect of hip-hop that they may not have been open to, but see it as an art in its traditional way.”

An opening reception will be today at 6 p.m. with musical performances. The exhibit is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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