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Jay Miriam: Catch the Heavenly Bodies

A portrait of Jay Miriam by photographer Monet Lucki.

Jay Miriam: Catch the Heavenly Bodies
Half Gallery
June 21 - July 27

By KURT MCVEY, JUN. 2016   

“It’s sort of like when you’re crossing the street and it’s a red light, but you go anyway,” offers the not so shy, but perhaps “quiet” painter Jay Miriam when pressed to give just one clue as to the nature of the title of her first solo show in New York, “Catch the Heavenly Bodies,” which opened on the 2016 Summer Solstice at Half Gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Miriam, who previously showed two pieces with Half Gallery at their former downtown location in 2012 for the group show “Hearsay,” is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, though she would be quick to add that such a detail is in many ways irrelevant. Miriam, you see, is one of those rare painters, especially at the fresh age of twenty-six, who seems to believe that certain types of art should be able to stand on its own legs. How refreshing!

Jay Miriam, "Applying Coconut Oil" (2016), oil on linen, 50 in. x 38 in. 

“I think the most important thing for everyone to do when they see a work of art is to interpret it their own way,” says the artist. “Titles are there in some ways as guidelines and I like to put humor into my work and the titles sometimes depict that humor.”

When asked whether or not she thinks she’s a funny person, Miriam simply declared, stone-faced, “I like jokes.” After several minutes of digging deep, after being pushed to deliver one, she was gracious enough to offer this example:

“There are two muffins in a microwave. One muffin turns to the other muffin and says, ‘Wow, it’s getting really hot in here.’ And then the other muffin says, ‘Holy shit a talking muffin!’”

It didn’t appear to be lost on Miriam, as we both chuckled organically, that our own conversation seemed to run in parallel to this somewhat awkward metaphysical paradox. Though Miriam claims that each of the nine, large-scale oil paintings in her show tells a unique story, she’s quick to imply that she prefers when her brush does the talking.

Jay Miriam, "Sweeping the Broom Closet" (2016), oil on linen, 50 in. x 38 in.

Jay Miriam, "Imaginary Chickens" (2016), oil on linen, 64 in. x 50 in.

Miriam’s vivacious, multihued work, much like Matisse, Henri Charles Manguin or André Derain long before her, flirts rather heavily with the bold and beastly Fauvism of the early 20th Century. Though the works aren’t exactly representational, Miriam insists the featured bodies, heavenly or not, are far from distorted or exaggerated, which some may suggest.

“You might look at something and have one reaction or analysis but if you have time to look more closely, it may be entirely different than your first perception of it,” says Miriam, who will often become transfixed by the complex color and composition of mundane natural objects found in parks near her apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

“I think distortions are positive because nothing is really perfect. It’s more of a way to acknowledge humanity for being imperfectly beautiful.” WM

Kurt McVey


Kurt McVey is a writer based in New York City.


photo by Monet Lucki


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