When it comes to the works of Brooklyn-based artist Jay Miriam, the devil really is in the details. Bright colors, bold figures and witty titles all blend together to create an impression of effortless complexity. We chat with Jay about the small details of life that capture her own attention – the places, the pastries and the peculiar beauty of the mundane.
Your bio begins with two specific moments: the year you were born and the year you started university. Can you tell us more about what happened between those two points in time?
I wish I could, but when it comes to memories, my mind doesn’t work that way. My memories span the amount of time it takes me to finish a painting, and then they dissolve. But in the in-between, I’m completely focused on that memory and the pieces of it that come together to make the painting: the way the light rests on a figure, colors, forms, shadows – things like this. I memorize the feelings. Where warm transitions to cool, etc. Most of the time, I don’t even know what day of the week it is. I do always remember who is funny and who isn’t, though. And who is kind.
Were you born an artist or did you become one?
I’m not anything.
You studied art in Pittsburgh and Krakow, and now, you live in New York City. How do you think these places influenced you as an artist and as a person?
Pittsburgh is a very down-to-earth city. You sit on the stoop with friends and eventually bike around. When I lived in Pittsburgh, we still used basic phones. The buses didn’t work and there was always snow. I painted all day and all night. Poland is pure magic. In New York City, I’m fortunate to constantly meet talented and passionate individuals. Regardless of what they are pursuing, it’s very inspiring. In New York, though, seven days is not enough for one week. Time feels compressed, and I wish there were two extra days between Saturday and Sunday.
Jay Miriam the Shadow of the Sun 2017.jpg
Despite being figurative and depicting mostly women, your works are quite abstract, layered and vibrant. What attracted you to this particular style?
It’s not possible to explain, that’s the way I see the world. It does change, the way I see. Each day is a new day.
You mentioned previously that you're inspired by little fragments of life – a passerby’s expression, a cashier’s hands, the New York fog, etc. How do you preserve that inspiration until it reaches a canvas? What does the process, from thought to tangible artwork, entail?
I go slightly mad and I listen to a lot of Leonard Cohen.
You’ve created art alone with your imagination, with live models, and in collaboration with other artists. What did you take away from each of these scenarios?
Painting from imagination is the most difficult. Painting from life is much easier. You have guidelines that you can then decide how to distort. Painting with other artists is like eating pizza with hot sauce but without a napkin: you’re happy but your face is also covered with hot sauce.
One of your works is titled Pastries on Mars, and you’ve confessed that you dream of going to the Moon. What do you expect to find out there?
Either solitude or a raspberry croissant.
You’ve explained that you want to tell a (simple, relatable) story with your works, many of which depict feminine figures. Is it a story about women, or something else entirely?
It’s a story of the everyday. The beauty of the mundane.
Jay Miriam Politically Correct 2011.jpg
Society’s view of what is a beautiful body, especially one that’s worth to be put on display, keeps changing. How do you decide what kind of body to display in your own work and how do you think that decision is influenced by conventional beauty standards?
All bodies are beautiful. They’re just shells for the soul. People who live their life with love as a backbone are beautiful.
Many of your works include these vibrant blues and yellows, a feature highlighted by the exhibition Blue Paintings of Women, held at the Ornis A. Gallery in Amsterdam a few years ago. What is the significance of these colors to you?
I don’t attribute a specific meaning to any one color. Sometimes, red expresses danger, sometimes passion, joy, etc. It all depends on how it’s used in the overall color palette of the work.
Your works have been exhibited in many cities around the world – New York, Amsterdam, Krakow, Montréal, Sydney, etc. Have you received completely different reactions everywhere you go or are you the kind of artist who just creates and walks away?
I listen to reactions when people tell me what they think. I do listen lightly. If you change who you are to impress others, then you’ll forget who you are. You know?
Where do you see yourself in the near future?
I see myself doing the same thing I’m doing now, but with longer hair.
Jay Miriam Applying Coconut Oil 2016.jpg
Jay Miriam Late Night and Thirsty 2016.jpg
Jay Miriam Picking Apples From the Ground 2017.jpg
Jay Miriam Pastries on Mars 2017.jpg
Jay Miriam Resting Gravedigger 2016.jpg
Jay Miriam Waiting in Line for Ice Cream 2016.jpg
Jay Miriam Female Bust 2017.jpg
Jay Miriam Kissing Lovers 2016.jpg
Jay Miriam Portret of Green Underpants 2017.jpg
Jay Miriam Professional Bird Feeder on a Lunch Break 2011.jpg
Jay Miriam Pregnant Ladies 2008.jpg
Jay Miriam Penelope and Her Reflection 2017.jpg