“I have this strange habit of coming up with the names of my pieces before I know what I’m going to create. Sometimes they live without names until long after they’re done. I just know I hear them speak before I see them. During the times I know their names, I write them somewhere. Knowing they’ll never be seen, I know where they are, hidden underneath layers and layers. I still know their names.”
Local artist Maiya Elaine is an old soul with a vibrantly active young mind and body. Just like the artist herself, Maiya Elaine’s work is made up of beautiful layers of spirit, color, courage, and femininity. There is a raw authentic essence that will leave viewers in a state of wonderment, remembering an internal ancestral language that only visual art and self-reflection have the power to recall. Currently a Digital Media major at Florida State College of Jacksonville, Maiya Elaine’s first love is oil painting. “Breach” Maiya Elaine’s first solo exhibition will take place on Friday, October 4th from 5-8 at Brew in 5 Points.
Built around the concept that all humans share a universal experience of the inner journey, “Breach” sees that journey as a catalyst for personal change and growth. Maiya Elaine says, “In order to come out of the water and get air, whales expend a lot of effort swimming up from the depths of the ocean. To get to a better place personally, we all struggle to rise out of our own proverbial waters. The things we carry with us can be heavy. [Growth] isn’t this easy thing like just releasing a balloon into the air.”
Looking at Maiya Elaine’s paintings calls to mind a range of women throughout history who have used their personal intimacies to fuel their work output (dare I say reminiscent of Gentileschi down the line to Joyce Tenneson). The female figures in her paintings seem to be attempting to free themselves from an array of confinements or repressions… self-inflicted, perhaps? There is a strong sensual presence in her paintings. Whatever the source of these bondages, which barely hold them back, a state of fierce self-love can only be achieved once they break free.
With a background in technical theater and scenic design from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Elaine’s paintings carry within them a dramatic energy emphasized by saturated color and intense lighting effects. When asked what got her into technical theater, she spoke of her father, a native of the Turks and Caicos, who is in the interior design and carpentry industry. As a child growing up with nine siblings, she wasn’t always allowed her to help her dad with his work, and it seemed like her brothers got to do all the fun stuff. “Art has been how I’ve released emotions ever since I was a kid. My feelings would immediately bring to mind colors or symbols–literal symbols for who I felt I was on the inside. I would just draw and draw even from a very young age. In 8th grade I helped my art teacher as an assistant, and I can remember teaching art lessons to all my siblings!”
Maiya Elaine has a very warm, kind, and inviting demeanor, and she brings no preconceived ideas into her studio. In her current method of working, she paints from personal experience. However, her techniques and craftsmanship have been strengthened by several impressive mentors and teachers along the way. Maiya Elaine has taken classes from local art educator superstars Liz Bryant and Mary Joan Hinson. She worked for a time as Ms. Hinson’s personal to continue her educational experience outside the classroom. She sought out and befriended Dustin Harewood at FSCJ’s Kent Campus because she “just wanted to find a way to take my work from good to great. Harewood has helped me get to that point. He told me to not lose momentum once I’ve got it going, and I am going to roll with it as fast as I can for as long as I can.”
You may recognize Maiya Elaine’s work if you drive by Austin’s Soul Food on Main Street’s Northside, or from Kent Campus’s group exhibition also featuring the work of J. Adam McGalliard last fall. She recently completed a privately commissioned mural in the living space of a family home. She is constructing a new website, and there is potential talk about her paintings being included in a group show at the Jax Makerspace through the curation of local Renaissance woman Shawana Brooks. Maiya Elaine will be moving into a studio space at CoRK mid-October, and, get this one, she is about to host a monthly TV special that highlights local arts and culture events on NBC 12 starting on Tuesday, October 1st. This girl is on FIRE right now, and nowhere near slowing down any time soon.
The NBC feature is the brainchild of her curatorial strategist Zaiche Johnson, a man who wears many hats around Jacksonville. Johnson co-created ‘New Company Presents’ along with Mike Todd, and they have already taken Jacksonville by storm with their community outreach events. Just last month, New Company Presents’ event “I Am We” brought over 500 attendees in Springfield. Maiya Elaine held art classes for local youth who attended and plans to play a key role in the “I Am We” December edition. I asked Johnson for a few words about how he got involved along Maiya’s path. He responded, “It’s a very distinct pleasure to function as Maiya’s agent and curatorial strategist. Maiya is idiosyncratic in her aesthetic approach, by melding lush geometry with surrealist depiction. Maiya may be chronologically young, but her mining for existential tone reflects a seasoned behavioral output. Although she is very much a critical component of this artisan community, Maiya’s career arc is also geographically boundless. As a collective, we both strive for our environment to be a by-product of us, and not be incarcerated by municipal trending.” In regards to the NBC special, he said “The segment name for now is: Artist Corner with Maiya Elaine on First Coast Living (NBC 12), debuting on Tuesday October 1st. It’s a monthly segment that covers artistic events of all disciplines, in the area each month.”
In 2018 Maiya’s grandmother passed away. This had a profound impact on the young artist, who was blessed to have been by her Nana’s side in south Florida during her final months. She savored the stories, memories, and advice that only one’s grandmother can offer. Her Nana told her to take her art more seriously than she had been, and to live her life with no regrets. She should do whatever it takes to live the life she wants to and loves, and to use the strong voice she’s been given to help other young artists.
Maiya wants to help give other artists a voice, to offer creative direction and guidance in their artistic endeavors. She has an end goal to work on an international platform that helps young artists just like herself find a way to not have to scrape from the bottom, but to feel supported and advocated for. “I want to be a pillar in the international art world, at the top of my game. Go big or go home, right?!? 110%.” I don’t know about you guys, but I’m intrigued and excited to encounter artwork like Maiya Elaine’s, that calls forth that ancestral language we so often ignore. I hope you are too!
You can catch the opening of Maiya Elaine’s first solo exhibition at Brew in Five Points thanks to Calli Marie and Zaiche Johnson on October 4th from 5-8pm. Her work will be hung until November 4th. To see more of her work or learn more about New Company Presents, check out: @maiyaelaine @newcompanypresents