New! Kenya Miles’ abstract debut makes the mystic modern.
Sometimes an artist catches your attention with a body of work that unseats your expectations, something you can’t quite define. That’s Kenya Miles—painter, textile designer, natural dye expert, and the brilliant eye behind today’s new limited-edition print. The Baltimore-based artist’s 20x200 debut explores the mystic, mining ancient traditions and Miles’ own modern travels for a softly surreal image that paints a sort of parallel universe. And wow do we want to go to there. Get your ticket to La Granada.
The original painting is part of The Central Sun, Miles’ larger series in which each piece begins with a round mark representing the center of the solar system. From that starting Sun flows the rest of the image, a story orbiting its star, unraveling nonlinearly, visual events that evolve indirectly, in reverse or in parallel, overlap, collide, or segue. There’s a dreamlike quality to this sort of circuitous route. Like the odd imprecise figure one remembers from a dream, your mind might find recognizable forms in the lines: a cross, perhaps a fish, maybe a flower and stem. These are purposefully suggestive, and intentionally incomplete, defined lines coalescing in an amorphous shape. La Granada is about the journey, not the destination—which makes a lot of sense coming from an artist who’s a wanderer at heart. Miles has spent a great deal of time exploring arts and customs abroad. For her, travel is a path to self-discovery that’s profoundly rewarding.
Take this trip with us: start with the subtle, soothing horizontal brush texture in the background of La Granada, and follow it with your eyes, riding a gently undulating reddish-orange wave. The thick, bold lines overlaid are in three distinct shades of blue—a barely-there pale blue, sky blue, and cobalt. Are these different parts of a piecemeal dream developing in tandem? Are they disconnected references strung together to reveal one color family, rearranged moments made one harmonious whole? The linework revolves around the “Sun” in the upper right corner, like Earth revolves around its star. Then like Earth, these lines are their own world, a world that draws on traditions from disparate cultures and corners of the globe, but ultimately arrives at something altogether its own, honoring ancient practices while bringing something new into existence.
Beyond the central presence of the Sun, Miles taps into other elements of the sacred in her The Central Sun series—religious traditions, temples, pyramids, Orishas, spirit animals, and more—working to create marks that feel futuristic and ancient all at once. How they play out in La Granada is almost imperceptible, but lends a spiritual air to the artwork. The title is one example. In Spanish “La Granada” means “the pomegranate”, a fruit with a rich history of symbolism, from Greek mythology and Rosh Hashanah, to Buddhist beliefs and several call-outs in the Koran. The layered, scalloped shapes in La Granada even look a little like pomegranate arils, tying the piece’s title to the visual plane. And of course Granada is also a capital city in Southern Spain, a stunning locale best known for its wealth of Spanish-Islamic art—perhaps another hint of the spiritual in the aura of this edition.
You’re sure to bring your own stories to an abstract experience like this. For all that Miles has baked into this edition, it’s remarkably malleable, a perfect standalone piece for a neglected wall or a collection in need of more mystery. It’s a joy to behold, but it unveils little challenges along the way. The greatest thing is, La Granada keeps us guessing.
With art for everyone,