Schrager’s ongoing celebrity-as-art-practice project is called ONA, set to run from 2015-2020. She started the project with the question: Is it possible to create a celebrity as an intentional art practice? What would that even look like? She is striving to make ONA a real world celebrity so she can (among other goals) successfully appropriate her own image into her art while also investigating how, in the digital age, everyone is conducting their own “celebrity project.”
You can hear her EP “Sex Rock” and see her videos at OnaMania.com, her Instagram-sexy at @OnaArtist (500k+ followers), and her Instagram-cool at @OnaMania (15k+).
By attempting to achieve actual celebrity despite her DIY fully self-made and self-funded working girl status, she’s sharing what she’s learning about female performance and celebrity and what is and isn’t allowed in the mainstream (and art), all the while sharing her music, pro-sex feminist message, and celebrations of life, art, and sexuality. She has written a controversial essay on the sexual roles of performers (Why I’m A Naked Rockstar), and her Year 1 analysis of Instagram is viewable in Rhizome: Self-Made Supermodels, On Instagram as a New Form of DIY, Digital, Feminized Performance.
Her Year 1 show was held at Superchief Gallery in NYC. Highlighted work included “50 Favorite IG Comments From Fans” and screenshots of photos from her Instagram with her favorite comment highlighted (with 10% of sales going to the commenter).
Her Mid Year 2 investor presentation was performed at the Johannes Vogt Gallery. As the press release said, “In East Hampton Schrager will present a humorous yet authentic take on the “Investors Presentation Template for a Tech Start-Up,” in form of a slide show that describes her current long-form art practice, ONA: The Celebrity Project. Schrager is attempting to create a Female Elvis, or what she has called “the Naked Rockstar,” who has 10 million Instagram followers, 1 million album downloads, and a photo of her ass on the cover of Rolling Stone by January 2020.”
Her Year 2 show was held at the old Vanity Fair Offices in Times Square as part of SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017.
Interview excerpt from Dazed:
Q: Tell me about the Celebrity Project. How did the premise come about? What are you trying to say by becoming Ona?
The Celebrity Project started in 2015 and involves the creation of a musician/artist/model named Ona and the attempt to make her a celebrity by achieving the following by 2020: 1) a photo of her ass on the cover of Rolling Stone, 2) 1 million song downloads, and 3) 10 million Instagram followers. It’s also an evolving question – what does it mean to make a celebrity as an art practice? – so far it includes being fully in charge of manufacturing all elements of her artistry, marketing and imagery, and documenting my experience as a kind of social, aesthetic and emotional adventure.
The idea came to me in the last semester of my MFA program when professors (and some students) kept saying that the images of myself that I was placing in my art were too sexy to be art. But when I looked around, I saw a few things. First, there was plenty of “sexy” in the art world – it was just women presented by what I call “man hands” (images by male photographers or works that appropriate the images of models or celebrities). Second, I saw hypocrisy because so many art world people seem to love mainstream (industry-sanctioned) celebrities and they incessantly listened to their music and watched their movies. Finally, I felt there was a kind of puritanical art world prejudice against women using their bodies in a sexy way in their art. I first experienced this when I was kicked out of the West Chelsea Artists Open Studio in 2012 because the director said my work was an “ad” and not “art.” So I decided to eschew appropriation, fight the hypocrisy, and subvert puritanism by creating a DIY sexy celebrity as an art practice, or what I recently called in Rhizome “a self-made supermodel.”
Social media, particularly Instagram, has been central to this project. I’m really fascinated with online interaction and the dynamics of fandom. Inevitably, I think anyone trying to grow a social media account is engaged in their own celebrity project, so I view what I’m doing to be a kind of metaphor for the general trend toward a universal adoption of the practice of micro-celebrity creation.
What has the reaction been by online users? Do they know that you are an artist?
I have had great reactions from male fans and have been surprisingly welcomed into the Instagram modelling world. Many of my fans tell me I’m an awesome artist just based on the photos I put on my @OnaArtist IG, which now has over 400,000 followers. I also share my music and videos and sometimes my visual art there as well. Some of my followers know I’m also an “artist” and some don’t – it depends on their interest. All they have to do is look a little deeper, but some don’t care to. It doesn’t matter to me.
But in the end my IG aesthetic actually isn’t mainstream-celebrity or Instagram-standard. I’m quite influenced by Cindy Sherman, and my photos come from 100s of different locations and my goal is to explore different looks (as opposed to pushing a single image brand). While this isn’t the norm for someone seeking to become a celebrity, it is true to my artistic nature and is one way I’m trying to be an artist and celebrity at once.