02/29/2012 10:01 am ET Updated Feb 29, 2012

Q&A With Artist Jackie Hoysted Of 'Girls -- Nice Doesn't Cut It' (PHOTOS)

WASHINGTON -- Artist Jackie Hoysted turned the agonies of quitting smoking into the 13-month blog and multi-media art project "Ashes to Ashes -- Send Me Your Last Cigarette."

Hoysted, who is from Ireland and lives in Gaithersburg, Md., told Washington City Paper in 2007 that she knew from hard-won experience that personal reasons wouldn't be enough to get her to stop smoking.

Quitting for work, she said, would stick. "By producing the blog and announcing a project, it's a professional goal I can't go back on," Hoysted told Joe Eaton at the time.

We got wondering about the back story with Hoysted's new exhibition. "Girls -- Nice Doesn't Cut It" features paintings of sometimes ghastly and sad-looking -- but always beautiful -- young women painted in gorgeous clothes on monochrome canvases.

In an interview, Hoysted tells The Huffington Post that these women are warriors and leaders who don't let the goal of being liked stand in the way of being determined. Hoysted also told HuffPost that her subjects' youth is a grappling with her own aging.

The Huffintgon Post: Who are the women in the exhibition?

Jackie Hoysted: They are all young women that are beautiful, sexy and strong, with minds of their own. They are depicted out of context, or rather in no context at all so that they exude mental strength. They are named after women warriors, leaders, protagonists or "out of the box" women thinkers that have been vilified by history. Some of them are women that refused to be victims, but instead became victors of a situation.

HuffPost: What does the title of the show mean? "Girls -- Nice Doesn't Cut It" -- doesn't cut what? What does cut it?

Hoysted:To quote Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, "Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History." I feel that girls are brought up to be nice and liked and that holds them back from being the most successful people they can be. We are raised listening to fairy stories where princesses wait to be rescued or to emulate virtuous victorian women who never say a bad word. Women who have made history, break the "rules" but these women have frequently been torn apart by society. Simply put, you can't make a difference if you insist on being liked and being nice. You get places by being determined and having a mind of your own and surrounding yourself with people who support your goals and aspirations.

HuffPost: You've said before that your work is very personal. How is this show personal?

Hoysted: The theme of the show is also a pun on my own vanity, looking good or looking nice. I turned 50 this year so this show is a homage to youth and beauty. I look at younger women and see how beautiful they are: the silkiness of their skin, the freshness of their faces and the shine in their eyes. They don't understand their beauty and their power. I've turned a corner, mens heads don't turn when I walk in a door, that whistle is not for me so there is a sadness in the works too. Youth and beauty is fleeting -- it fades. Creating this body of work was cathartic in the sense that it helped me work through my negativity about my age and move ahead with a new energy, strength and excitement about going forward.

HuffPost: Do you still miss cigarettes?

Hoysted: No. Quitting smoking has been the hardest struggle of my life and it is bittersweet to say but my biggest accomplishment. Smoking is so SO not cool and is a terrible addiction.

HuffPost: What are you working on now?

Hoysted: The show at Gallery555 will be up for a month so am using this time to think about how to move forward. Manipulation and transformation is always at the heart of what I work on -- I especially enjoy the interplay of creating three dimensional forms and re-creating them in two dimensional works and vice versa. So I will be focusing on experimenting in the coming months. I would like to integrate the two mediums with a focus on diet and exercise so that I engage people in both healthy living and art in a fun and unique way. It's a personal goal -- I need to lose weight and get fit -- so I'll achieve it through art.

"Girls -- Nice Doesn't Cut It" opens with a champagne reception on March 3 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Gallery 555dc, in the lobby of 555 12th St. NW.


RELATED VIDEO: Interview with Jackie Hoysted about the personal nature of her art.