Interview with Jamiah Calvin (AKA Miah The Creator) for ‘Reganomics, Cocaine ’80s and the ’90s Re-Up’ | Exhibition August 5 – August 26, 2023

Thinkspace is excited to present Jamiah Calvin (AKA Miah The Creator) ‘Reganomics, Cocaine ’80s and the ’90s Re-Up’ where he uses past memories and nostalgic moments where the “hard times” were also the best of times. With depictions of iconic hood spots, Calvin highlights the “golden days,” calling attention to the ways recent transplants have glamorized the times of hardship.

In no real order these paintings tell an intimate story of the artist’s world and upbringing, providing a sober view of what it meant to live in a world where drug transactions and confusing crack for candy as a child was a normalized way of life.

Our interview with Jamiah explores his most challenging piece, his most & least favorite part of his creative process, who he would love to collaborate with and what kind of project.

Photo by BirdMan

What themes were you exploring in this body of work? Did you have a piece that was particularly challenging?

I don’t know if I can call it themes that was being explored by me. However, my goal was to create a narrative on each piece that would capture a true moment of essence and unwavering rawness of life as I know it. If my ‘Nothing Was The Same Again’ body of work that I created 3 years ago was side A to an album then this would be side B. This would be the side that displays the not so pretty shit that we sometimes choose to overlook or discuss. It’s what i consider the beauty within flaws. The perfections within an imperfective world. And that may be the theme and I’m just learning it…The theme of masterfully capturing beautifully, flawed people living in imperfect circumstances. ‘Leola Beloved’ was very challenging because it forced me to face and dissect some emotions that I kept bottled inside for years. It was the first time I painted my grandmother. It was the first time I looked in her young eyes and say to myself damn I miss you. You have to understand the fact that she passed away from heart failure in front of my eyes when I was ten years old and she was in her early forties. She was still young. So it caused me to face a lot during that creative process

What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days? Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

A day in the studio can be sporadic. There can be multiple pieces being worked on at once. Some may not get finished until weeks or months after I start on them. I refuse to rush my process for anyone or anything because that defeats the whole purpose of it being “my” process. And when it comes to creating art my structure can be a bit unorthodox. This is due to me putting so much emotion in my work and emotions change. Emotions can be quite fickle, so it can be a little difficult working on a painting on days when it’s challenging to emotionally channel inside it. At least, that’s case for me. As far as rituals go, one thing for certain is that I will have some great music playing on the speaker as I create.

What is your most favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?
Who are some of your creative influences? Why do they inspire you?

My favorite part of the creative process is writing the concepts and ideas down in my art journal. I seriously write down the ideas to my pieces from color choices, composition and titles. I’m usually doing this around 3 am, or some weird time in the afternoon. I keep notepads with me all the time because I’m always writing down my art ideas. I already have my next body of work ideas that I plan on creating in the next couple years already written out in my notepad. My least favorite part of creating is probably mixing colors on the pallet. It still takes me forever to get colors just the way I want them.
There are a lot of amazing artists around the world that I love. They all are unique in their own special way. From past to present. Too many to name right now.

If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do / be an expert at?
What do you hope viewers take away or experience while viewing your work?

I think I was already born with everything I needed downloaded in my brain already. I’m walking in my purpose, therefore, whatever I’m not an expert in yet is not meant to be at the moment. But whatever that may be will come in due time.
I hope viewers experience art that speaks to their soul and not just to they’re eyes. I hope they experience the same breathtaking experience I felt the first I saw an Aaron Douglas painting in person for the first time, Mode 2’s art in the graffiti magazines in the 90’s, or when I saw painting of the boy wearing Airmax with the fish gun by James Jean. They are unforgettable moments for me because the art left a strong impression on my psyche. So that’s a feeling as an artist I strive to give the viewers when they see my work.

How do you like to enjoy your time outside of the studio? Do you celebrate the completion of a body of work?

I read, vinyl shop, watch anime, be with my sons, and just try not to overthink about shit during my downtime. I’m a thinker so my wheels are always turning in my head. I don’t celebrate the completion of my body of work often because I’m always in grind mode… Maybe that’s something I need to learn how to do more often in the future. I will celebrate when I see my work on the walls of The Broad Museum or the LACMA with my some of my art heroes. And I will celebrate when I see a permanent section of black artists works on the walls of the Art Institute of Chicago.

If you could collaborate with any artists in any sort of medium (i.e. movies, music, painting) who would you collaborate with, and what would you be making?

I would love to collaborate with Ryan Coogler or Lena Waithe. I would love to make an animated mini series. I don’t want to give out the details of the show because I don’t want anyone to steal my idea and who knows I may meet one of them one day and make that collaboration come to manifestation.

Who would be on the guest list if you could throw a dinner party for five people, dead or alive? What would be on the menu? What would be the icebreaker question?

Jesus. Prophet Muhammad. Buddha. Richard Pryor. Wanda Sykes.
The menu would have wine made by Jesus himself, rib tips, jade rice, fish, vegan sides, soul food and lemon pound cake. The icebreaker question would be “Jesus do you be on a bathroom break or something when we be down here going through some of this mess?”

What was in your musical rotation during the development of this body of work?

Killer Mike’s new album, John Coltrane, Cleo Sol, cocaine 80s and 90’s re-up playlist on Spotify.

Exhibition on view August 5 – August 26, 2023 at:
Thinkspace Projects
4207 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90016

August Exhibitions featuring works from Mark Jeffrey Santos, Clementine Bal, Jamiah Calvin, Wiley Wallace & GoopMassta open August 5, 2023 at Thinkspace Projects.

Thinkspace Projects presents:

Gallery I:          
‘Uncharted Paths’

Gallery II:                                               
‘Magic Friends’

Gallery III:  
‘Reganomics, Cocaine ’80s and the ’90s Re-Up’

Gallery IV:     
‘Woven Trails’

Dog House Gallery:
‘Leader of the Pack’

If all that wasn’t enough, be sure to check out GoopMassta’s ‘Courtyard Sessions’ between our two spots with Alex Solis live painting + a mini artist mart with booths from GoopMassta, AtlasgraffitiSean Keeton, & Anthony Patrick Manorek + amazing grub from Kabob Senpai + open bar + live DJs Venice Beats + Brushwork’s Dog House Gallery

Opening Reception:
Saturday, August 5 from 6-10pm

On view August 5 – August 26, 2023

Thinkspace Projects
4207 W. Jefferson Blvd + 4217 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90016
#310.558.3375  |  Tues. – Sat. noon to 6pm

‘Uncharted Paths’

Thinkspace projects is proud to present ‘Uncharted Paths’ from Mark Jeffrey Santos, aka Mr. S in our main gallery. Following appearances in our Chicago and Dubai group shows last year, this is the artist’s debut solo exhibition in the United States. 

Santos’s creations show his penchant for adventurous and larger-than-life personas, there’s an instant and comfortable connection that is established once a viewer comes to experience his art.

His new body of work for ‘Uncharted Paths’ is based on his personal experiences traveling, creating a body of work that evokes the certain feeling of excitement when you find yourself in a new place.  

“Last year I had the opportunity to travel to South Korea and I was lucky to have witnessed the season of autumn. Seeing it for the first time feels like I’m in a strange world. It was such an otherworldly experience for an ordinary phenomenon.”

Many of Santos’s works revolve around vignettes of a young boy captured in the midst of discovery and exploration of a new realm. A sense of self-awareness is evident in the pensive gaze of his innocent protagonist. It is a look that is filled with profound reflection and contemplation of things to come. Santos uses a variety of Japanese Noh masks to expand this concept — masks that conceal its subject’s emotion opposite the pensive gaze that reveals the true emotions he feels.

Complete with a dreamlike environment and his wide-eyed characters, Santos is not only technically skilled, but also gifted with the vision to construct imaginary, bordering on surreal, scenes. His characters can often be found on an adventure, accompanied by larger-than-life creatures. Such talent in world-building and character design only comes natural for Santos, who did works in video and film before becoming a visual artist.

About Mark Jeffrey Santos (aka Mr. S):
Mark Jeffrey Santos (b. 1990 Philippines) works are steeped in the world of fantasy. With previous work in video and film, he is a world-building and character design wonder. Since participating in art exhibitions in 2015, Santos has been gaining a massive following online and on ground, earning the moniker “Mister Sasquatch” in the local street art scene, for one. Santos’s paintings and illustrations are also beginning to gain traction internationally, having exhibited his works in Taiwan, China, and the United Kingdom. He has had four solo exhibitions, too, and has been part of art fairs and group shows in the country and abroad.

‘Magic Friends’

Clémentine Bal’s Magic Friends welcomes viewers into her world of characters who proudly embrace their uniqueness and vibrant colors, filling Gallery II of Thinkspace Projects for her debut U.S. solo exhibition.

This body of work explores slightly strange, quirky, or even truly bizarre characters and a joyful luminous ensemble fueled by gradients and contrasts. Each subject was designed to celebrate their own individuality, even as some of them still struggle to accept themselves as they are. 

With shapes ranging from the easily recognizable, such as animals, suns, or mountains to the more abstract curves, spikes, bumps, and hollows. The tactile aspect of my work is undoubtedly what I appreciate the most. Each character is unique, yet they all seem to be connected in one way or another. They form a magical entity that can transform at will. With their simple, clean lines, it’s as if they just came out of a drawing, evoking a childlike wonder and even a disconcerting naivety. 

“I truly enjoyed bringing these characters to life, aiming for them to be light-hearted, kind, and funny, like friends.”

About Clémentine Bal:
Clémentine Bal is a sculptor born in Paris in 1979 and who lives in France. She graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Annecy. In her work she creates characters that reflect her inner world. They can come from feelings, memories, projections. They take the form of multicolored mountains or volcanoes, semi-human creatures, little hybrid ghosts. With their simple, clean lines, it’s as if they just came out of a drawing. Clémentine Bal maintains the strong ties she keeps with childhood, giving her characters a sometimes disconcerting naivety. Influenced by the worlds of Mark Ryden or Hayao Miyazaki, she will also draw her inspiration from her memories of reading or cartoons from her youth. Family, children, friendship, animals, and more generally the strong bonds that give us emotions are themes that she likes to address. Thus are born a variety of characters gently. Their lightness protects us like an antidote to the sound and fury of the world.

‘Reganomics, Cocaine ’80s and the ’90s Re-Up’

In Gallery III, Thinkspace Projects presents Jamiah Calvin’s new body of work, full of moments of fortitude and moments of healing. ‘Reaganomics, Cocaine ’80s and the ’90s Re-Up’ uses past memories and nostalgic moments where the “hard times” were also the best of times. 

In no real order these paintings tell an intimate story of the artist’s world and upbringing, providing a sober view of what it meant to live in a world where drug transactions and confusing crack for candy as a child was a normalized way of life.

In this body of work you can see the way in which Calvin has enriched himself in the art of visual storytelling without aggression. With depictions of iconic hood spots, Calvin highlights the “golden days,” calling attention to the ways recent transplants have glamorized the times of hardship. 

About Jamiah Calvin:
Jamiah Calvin is a visual artist and muralist from Chicago Illinois. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BFA in studio art with an emphasis on painting. He specializes in figurative and narrative oil paintings that captures raw emotions and nostolgic experiences growing up within the Austin Community on the West side of Chicago.

‘Woven Trails’

‘Woven Trails’ is Wiley Wallace’s latest solo exhibition, bringing a captivating exploration of interconnectedness, time, and space to Thinkspace Projects’ Gallery IV. 

Through a harmonious fusion of yarn, threads, transparent shapes, translucent glass, hiking trails, and metaphysical elements, Wallace creates compositions that transcend the boundaries of the tangible world. Symbolizing the invisible threads that bind us and the universe together, the incorporation of string highlights the connected nature of all things. With translucent glass, the artwork takes on an ethereal quality, inviting contemplation of the seen and unseen. Central to the exhibition are the motifs of hiking trails, serving as metaphors for the journeys we undertake in life and the narratives that shape our experiences. 

‘Woven Trails’ delves into metaphysical concepts, inviting viewers to reflect on the mysteries of existence. The paintings depict transformative journeys where time, space, and interconnectedness intertwine to form a mesmerizing tapestry of exploration and reflection. Wallace’s pieces convey a kind of sci-fi nostalgia harkening back to a Spielberg-era of extraterrestrial-themed filmmaking. At times their implied innocence and naiveté give way to darker and more dystopian readings, surfacing amidst the neon-hued glow.

About Wiley Wallace:
Phoenix-born painter Wiley Wallace’s work is playful and ambiguous, his luminous and ostensibly radioactive worlds suggest a metaphysical interest in the possibility of alternate realities: the endlessly shapeshifting and protean nature of fantasy at the intersection of the imagined and “real.” Wallace’s paintings combine realistic rendering with elements of the surreal, and near-magical references that include eerily cast light sources bordering on the supernatural. Playful and macabre, his works combine intense thematic contrasts between light and dark to achieve suspense and evasion. Children are a recurring theme in his compositions, representing a kind of primordial link to something invisible and beyond comprehension, exempt from the rationalizations of the adult. Often using his own children as models, Wallace’s narratives are open-ended, filled with suggestion and partial disclosures rather than forceful assertions or posited certainties. The themes of connection and communication resonate throughout Wallace’s imagery, as the works’ protagonists seem ever in search of fugitive contact. The skeleton is a recurring figure throughout Wallace’s imagery as well, appearing at times as a sinister harbinger of some kind and at others as Halloween costume level kitsch. Wallace’s pieces convey a kind of sci-fi nostalgia harkening back to a Spielberg-era of extraterrestrial-themed filmmaking. At times their implied innocence and naiveté give way to darker and more dystopian readings, surfacing amidst the neon-hued glow.

‘Leader of the Pack’

GoopMassta’s debut solo show embraces the environment of the Dog House Gallery. Playing off the irony of the dog house itself, the collection features 15 new canine-inspired works. Each piece creates a unique and playful atmosphere that will evoke a feeling of happiness and familiarity. The refreshing experience does not stop as you take in the full collection, but continues throughout with eye-catching installations both inside and out.

About GoopMassta:
Hello, my name is James – I’m currently living in the Los Angeles area; was born in New York and raised in Miami. I am the creator of GoopMassta, the iconic and legendary fashion-forward, positive thinking froggy character. I focus mainly on my character and portraying his exclusive lifestyle to the world. The more you experience with him, the more you’ll become a part of his journey and never want to leave. I’m constantly pushing and exploring different aspects of GoopMassta and his story to continuously promote positivity through different mediums. My goal as an artist/creator is to inspire and show others that there are no limits – you can achieve anything you desire.