In Brooklyn-based artist Jay Miriam’s paintings the wine is always flowing, sultry red fingernails are de rigueur, clothing is optional and her women are deep into a sultry midday lounge, limbs akimbo, their gazes far away. “From the Mouths of Babes” Miriam’s solo show at Wolfgang Gallery is a celebration of bold, compelling flesh and blood, self-actualized babes.
Many women will feel very seen by Miriam’s perspective which taps into a repository of sass, eros, yearning and female solidarity that can define the circumstance of being born a woman on planet Earth.
In her unabashedly sexy, occasionally raunchy-adjacent paintings Miriam uses life models — friends but also strangers — who aren’t shy about letting a blouse or a skirt fall away, revealing not just their bodies but a glimpse of their inner selves. Her preferred setting is a bedroom or the artist’s studio or other private spaces where women congregate or recline alone, red wine glasses ever present like a shorthand for the world of self-indulgent pleasure Miriam’s subjects dwell in. “Sunbathing in the Dark” takes place in the artist’s studio where paintings are propped against the wall. A woman with her eyes closed lies on the floor, her feet propped up on a chair, two glasses of wine close by. Her hand drifts to her crotch in a gesture that could be provocative or simply comforting, another moment of languorous pleasure that makes “From the Mouths of Babes” so uniquely thrilling.
A female point of view is front and center in Miriam’s self-referential spins on the nude showgirls of art history. Her subjects don’t offer up, but instead own their sexuality and have simply chosen to allow us a momentary glimpse.
A complex vision of female subjectivity, “The Doll House and Her Mother,” features a nearly nude reclining woman nursing a baby. She wears the slightly hazy expression and gently parted lips many parents will recognize as the soothing hormonal flood that comes with the act of feeding a child. Behind her is the doll house in question, remnant and symbol of her girlhood. The image marks a life change from one reality to another and conveys some of the melancholy and magic of that shift. It’s an image loaded with emotion that may trigger a sense memory in some viewers of the fresh, raw sensations of new motherhood and the profound sensations of one life lost and another gained.
Miriam’s painting style is expressionist and defined by riotous swaths of color. Her mark making is cursory, quicksilver, vaguely dream-like, a style that feels as much about headspace as reality.
Miriam’s large selection of paintings share space in Wolfgang Gallery’s front gallery with the Colombian-born and London-based painter Douglas Cantor’s raucous, fruity hued and tongue-in-cheek excavations of hypermasculinity.
Credit: Courtesy of Wolfgang Gallery
Credit: Courtesy of Wolfgang Gallery
The artist titles his posing and preening self-portraits with hilariously inflammatory macho language like “Gas in the Tank One in the Chamber.” In that work the shirtless artist flexes his frame-filling biceps (ornamented with a ludicrously puny heart tattoo) against an audaciously intense sunset. In “Last Cowboy in this Town” Cantor’s alter ego, a coal black stallion, occupies an office where Venetian blinds, a lit cigarette and oscillating fan lend a humorously non-sequitur gumshoe ambiance. Mashing up self-affirmative images of the artist bathed in a sickly green neon light or the gaudy orange of van sunsets, Cantor’s campy works collide his South American heritage with the international machismo vernacular of tattoos, slicked back hair, bare chests and hubba-hubba beefcake that feels like a delicious call-and-response with Miriam’s investigation of womanhood.
“Jay Miriam: From the Mouths of Babes” and “Douglas Cantor”
Through July 22. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Free. Wolfgang Gallery, 1240 Old Chattahoochee Ave. NW, Suite H, Atlanta. 404-549-3297, wolfganggallery.com.
Bottom line: Audacious, heartfelt, uniquely strange, two artists examine and recalibrate the tropes of masculinity and femininity to offer a new vision.
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