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Girl Knew York Goes Beyond Tattoos at Art Pop-Up Shop

By Hilary George-ParkinAug 5 2021
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Mira Mariah’s art lives all over New York City, inked on the shoulder blades, sternums, wrists, and hipbones of her many devoted fans. Her signature tattoos — full of curlicue flames, twinkling stars, and doe-eyed faces — have garnered a sizable following for her brand, Girl Knew York, but she’s never been content to constrain herself to a single medium. Instead, she’s translated her work to beauty packaging, neon wall art, jewelry, and underwear, gradually building a brand that transcends the boundaries of ink and skin.

Now, she’s taking on her biggest project yet and bringing her Girl Knew York brand to life at a pop-up store at Rockefeller Center. The store, which will be open August 4 through 31, will feel kind of like “a surrealist New York gift shop,” says Mariah, a native New Yorker. Along with T-shirts, hats, and other merch for sale, there will be framed vintage Playboy centerfolds that Mariah has tatted up like they’re ready for Riis Beach and an in-house magazine called Knew York Rag — tagline: “a strange magazine for strange people” — featuring poetry, photography, and a mock advertisement inviting readers to sell their souls to Satan.

“I'm really excited to be able to access people and have people access my art that are not just getting tattooed,” says Mariah. The store gives locals and visitors a chance to discover and connect with the brand in a new way, and gives Mariah a broader platform for her art.

Inclusion is a key part of the Girl Knew York brand. As a queer, disabled mom, Mariah draws a diverse community around her — one she’s excited to expand further as the brand becomes less about her and more about the people that want to be a part of it.

Part of the pop-up’s mission, she says, is to communicate to existing fans that “Girl Knew York is no longer [just] me. Girl Knew York is you.” For those new to the brand -- and New York City -- the message is “it can be you.” In that sense, “it’s almost like an advertisement to live here and join our cult,” she laughs.

Having the space has also given her an excuse to plan events — a big deal considering the brand was initially inspired by the concept and experience of parties, and the pandemic has left a gaping void of celebrations.

“I just exist in a world where I always have 50 ideas for great parties,” explains Mariah. She loves thinking through the full experience, from how the store will smell (Girl Knew York has a signature scent, naturally) to what the team will wear (all white, though in a grungy artist way). Ideally, visitors know what they’re going to get but still come away with some element of surprise.

It’s the kind of universe-building that Disney does best, she says — though in this case, the universe is filled with neon lighting and artistic nudes.

Apart from the Playboy prints, Mariah has also inked a series of ancient Greek-style statuettes, adding snakes and disco balls to their Venus de Milo-esque forms. “I love the idea of classic beauties having tattoos,” she says. With the pieces, she’s rejecting an idea she picked up from art history that placing a mirror in a statue’s hand depicts vanity, as if beauty only has worth if the beholder is unaware of it.

“There's something about having tattoos to me that acknowledges your own beauty,” says Mariah. “That, I think, is why I feel excited about tattooing these statues.”

The concept is a little cheeky, a little subversive — much like the Girl Knew York brand itself as it finds its place among the gleaming towers of Rockefeller Center.

While Mariah may be the quintessential downtown girl (her new HQ is in Tribeca), she isn’t immune to the thrill of seeing the Radio City Music Hall sign every day or recalling annual outings to see the Rockettes as a kid.

“The iconography of Midtown, that is what people imagine when they think about New York,” she says. It’s only fitting that Girl Knew York is now part of that landscape.

Meet Girl Knew York

A series of events will be hosted at the shop for visitors to interact directly with the artist and the wider community of Girl Knew York fans.

  • August 15: Private live drawing class — a chance to drink wine and create art with the Girl Knew York team.
  • August 19: Art event where visitors can purchase Mariah’s original paintings (one of the few times she will have ever sold them, she says) and etched mirrors, among other works.
  • August 26: Mariah has invited her sought-after personal psychic Sarah Potter for a Witching Hour party featuring a guided meditation, intention-setting ceremony, and one-on-one time with guests.

Girl Knew York is open at 30 Rockefeller Center from August 4 - 31, 2021. Store hours: Tues-Weds from 11am - 7pm; Thurs-Sat from 11am-8pm, and Sun from 11am-7pm. Visit the Girl Knew York store page for further information about events and to purchase tickets.

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