With big collaborations and bigger aspirations, Austin native Nicholas Osella is an artist with a bright future
by Hannah Morrow
Photographs by Isaac Anthony
When Vogue dropped its September issue last month, a noteworthy detail behind the Beyoncé cover was quick to surface: The photographer wasn’t Annie Leibovitz or Peter Lindbergh. It was 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell. In a creative landscape deemed traditional, the odds would not have been in Mitchell’s favor. There’s a hierarchy to climb, a network that often takes years to build. Only then, possibly decades into a career, do some creatives catch that kind of opportunity. But to overlook an artist due to age would be a mistake. The same holds true for Austin-born artist Nicholas Osella.
At 23 years old, Osella already has high-profile collaborations in his portfolio. Curtis Kariuki, personal photographer to 20-year-old rapper Lil Yachty, found Osella via Twitter last year, and the two teamed up to chronicle Yachty’s first official tour, a project eventually titled “Lil Yachty Scrapbook.” Later in 2017, Osella was approached by A$AP Mob’s art collective, AWGE, to create art for their album “Too Cozy.” Osella’s piece by the same name was featured on A$AP Rocky’s Instagram, exposed to 6.6 million of Rocky’s followers.
“My overall mission is leveling the playing field of music and art,” says Osella, who moved to New York City in June. “There was once a time they existed in harmony, primarily during the reign of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring during the ’80s. I believe that to be in hiding, and it’s a goal of mine to help bring that back.”
On His Process:
Osella uses broad paint strokes, typography, chain stitching, and found images to create his collages. “It’s a horrific display of creativity because of the way my brain works; it just makes sense to surround myself with what I’m doing,” says Osella. “Much of the collaging ends up on the floor. I like to find the images no one has ever seen, so it’s new for everyone. A new way to view the pictures, and a new subject matter. A$AP Rocky eating an apple. Or Andy Warhol eating a hamburger. That’s my kind of photo.”
On His Hometown:
There is something so apparent and mystical about Austin. It’s where everything began for me, and I’m sure where everything will end,” says Osella, who grew up in the city and studied graphic design at UT. “When I left Austin to come to New York, I told myself that in order to completely appreciate that city as a home, I needed to leave and experience a different life. But I am so proud to be from Austin. And I feel bad for everyone who can’t say that.
On His Business:
“StudioWOS was made a long time ago, and since then, it has meant something different every time I try to put a label on it,” says Osella. “Right now, I’m involving myself with paints and collages, but next week it could be something completely different. My work lives in a constant narrative, like a story being told. New chapters, pages turning. Just as everyone, I have something to share with the world. I’ll leave what I am and what I do up for interpretation.
ON THE WEST CAMPUS COLLECTION:
“The clothes were inspired 110 percent by my friends, family, and community of Austin. They’re my people, and an extension of me,” says Osella, who graduated from UT in 2017. “My sister, Sophie, always tells me about how clothes should start conversations, and that’s exactly what art should do. Cause some reaction and make someone think, ‘How did they make that?’”
ON CARRYING THE TORCH OF HIS INSPIRATIONS:
“Keith Haring and Andy Warhol will always be the people who taught my mind how to walk, who gave me my courage,” says Osella. “Keith Haring wrote in his journal the day Andy Warhol died that now that he was gone, no one would be there to take the torch and continue the work they were doing. At some point, someone will be there to pick up the pencil and continue drawing the line. I can only honor him in my own way. I think I’ve made good progress so far.