[April 25 2023]
Exhibition Details: From the Mouths of Babes May 5 – July 22, 2023 WolfGang Gallery
Jay Miriam Interview
Interview text by Timothy Ryan White
Jay Miriam is an expressionist oil painter from Brooklyn, NY. She focuses on nude women. All of her work is sketched and then painted with nothing traced. Her colors are completely her own, as she mixes them herself. If the model is not in front of her she paints from memory and feeling. A kaleidoscope of imagery and emotion fill every piece. When you see a Jay Miriam, you know it is by her hand without asking or searching for a signature. Viewing her work is an invitation to a world both familiar and foreign. A warmth of color, depth, and emotion is felt by the observer as their eye meets her work. One cannot help but feel they are being let into a private moment, as important to the viewer as it is the figure on the canvas.
You’re a New York City native and the daughter of immigrants from Poland. Did growing up in the diaspora of these two worlds impact your art?
Jay Miriam – I would say so, in a way I grew up in two different worlds. There was my home life, which was traditional Polish, and the outside world, which was more chaotic. My first language was Polish, and
my earliest memories are of Greenpoint (Brooklyn) and the Polish community: church, bible studies, Polish dances (krakowianki i gorale), visiting the Polish bakery every Sunday. As I grew older I stopped being “Polish” and slowly became “Polish-American”, learning English and wanting to fit in I naturally rejected my home life to find my place in the outside world. The problem with this finding-of-oneself is, after not speaking in Polish for many years, I realized I had transitioned from “Polish-American” to solely “American”. Living between two worlds is a lifelong challenge, trying to find a foot in one without losing balance in the other. Because language was always such a challenge for me, I barely spoke as a youth, in English or Polish, and turned to the visual language as my mode of communication. You can draw a flower and in any language it is a flower, without worry of grammar, rhetoric, or accent.
What can people expect from your new series? Is it a departure from your previous work?
Jay Miriam – People can expect to see bold mark making, vibrant color palettes, distortion of the figure, and expression that I always try to project in my work. In that way, the hand has not changed, but the circumstance and the eye in this series is a departure from my usual mode of working from imagination. In this series, over the course of eight weeks in January and February, eleven women came to the studio to pose for portraits. Of the eleven women six were strangers and 5 were close friends. It was a beautiful process and it felt like a mutual creation between muse and painter. We worked together to plan a pose, and it was important for it to be something natural. The way we worked varied based on the pose and personal preference, some wanted to take a break every 2 minutes, whereas others were okay to pose until they decided for a break. Just that process alone changes how each Muse was painted, because after each break nobody will take the exact same pose, and so you have a leg that was on the left and now it’s more to the right. These organic movements allowed for the painting to evolve into itself, as the passage of time decided where the leg will finally rest.
Many people who enter galleries for a show are new to art or dilettantes and anxiously rush for the wine line while they figure out their next move and hope to see a familiar face. As an artist, what is your mindset when you enter a gallery to see new works? Where would you like a person’s eye and mind to go when they view your paintings?
Jay Miriam – When I go to a gallery I always feel like a little kid who is about to enter a candy store, especially if the exhibition has works by an artist I admire and whose career I follow. To be able to see the works up close changes everything: the scale, the texture, to be able to walk towards and away from, seeing an artwork takes time and the more you look, the greater your understanding and bond with the work is. In my paintings I would like the person’s eye to move around the entire canvas, and then to form a visual map of bridges that link various brush strokes and colors. At least that’s how I paint, for instance; I may place a cool red between a blue and yellow, so that the color transition between a cool and warm isn’t as jarring to the eye. And that is the purpose of the red there. If that makes sense. Every color exists because it has to find a place of harmony in relation to every other color, and together, they form the composition.
Jay Miriam – There is so much emotion associated with putting a show together, it’s definitely comparable to riding a wooden roller coaster. To start, I’ve always built and prepared my own canvases. I’ll get the stretcher bars, and then make a trip to the Garment District for raw linen, after I stretch the linen on the the bars I do a light coat of water for each, and then three coats of gesso, with sanding between each coat. In this part alone I am incredibly stressed because linen is an organic material. Once it gets into contact with water it absorbs and particles can compress, causing the pressure of the linen to interact with the wood. If too much water, the linen will sag. After this, if the preparation was a success, I start to map out how I would like the composition to be. Sometimes I make drawings, but mostly I map everything in my head. And strangely this part is done in a visual black and white, just the composition, I think about where there should be action and where there should be breathing room for the eye. So much goes into making one painting, so much time, emotion, and planning. In the end, I know it’s ready when the emotion is there. This is a challenging question, but in this case, painters have to follow their gut, otherwise they can work on the same painting forever and eventually go mad.Is a painting ever really finished?
Jay Miriam – For me, yes, and once I realize the work is finished I don’t dare touch it.As an expressionist, you take the real and paint it into your own version of reality. Does this method carry into your everyday life? Are your paintings an expression of what existing is for you?My paintings are a mix of 50% reality and 50% of what I wish reality were to be. Everything in my life is inspiration for the paintings, but not everything in my life is funny, and having an element of humor in the works is important.
How can a gallery or collector reach you for a studio visit?
Jay Miriam – For a studio visit anyone can contact me on instagram @jayymiriam or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. My studio is in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but since the advent of Zoom I’ve also done a few visits over the computer.
1240 Old Chattahoochee Ave NW Suite H, Atlanta, GA 30318
Photos by Beata Kanter