If you haven’t heard of Los Angeles-based, Trinidad-born artist Miles Regis yet, you will. He learned to paint at age five, by watching his uncle Alexander King, one of Trinidad’s most renowned artists. The Huffington Post compared Regis to Basquiat and Jackson Pollack, and he was a standout at Miami’s Art Basel this past season where he headlined for Art Africa. Regis just wrapped a month-long exhibit in Los Angeles called “Unapologetic Truth,” and celebs like Jesse Williams, Nicolette Sheridan, and The Marley Family are fans.
When you look at his work it’s easy to see what the fuss is about. First, there’s his aesthetic. Using the cultural landscape of his native Trinidad—the masquerading, costuming, and art installation—he pulls you in. Then there’s a story, message, or call to action that stirs something deep within.
It’s on purpose.
“I want to start a conversation,” Regis says. “It’s easy to get people’s attention with a pretty picture, and by the time they lean in, the conversation has started.”
It’s Regis’ ability to start these much-needed social conversations, via paintings that people can’t wait to put on their wall that attracted Liz of Loft at Liz’s fine art gallery in Los Angeles. She met Regis about 5 or 6 years ago and immediately put him in a show, and the artist just wrapped a month-long solo exhibit at her gallery.
“Miles is creating really poignant work that is addressing vital social issues, always with a positive edge,” Liz says.
One of her favorite Regis’ paintings depicts two men, one Black and the other White, staring at each other with the caption, “I Am So Jealous.” It’s the type of raw honesty and emotion that can come out in a picture much easier than in real life, and it’s definitely a conversation starter, even if with oneself.
Mark Maynard, an HBO exec and art collector who has been following Regis’ art for the past ten years says, “Miles’ work unnerves you. He’s making a statement on so many levels.”
Yes indeed. Like his piece called “3/5 Man” about the clause in the clause in the U.S. Constitution that counted Black people as as 3/5 of a person. Words like, “Sick and tired of it, doing something about it,” are written on a naked Black man’s leg to show frustration over feeling like little has changed in the two centuries since the law was first enacted.
And while Regis’ political statements are ever present in his work, so is his love for Black women who are shown with incredible strength, color and sensuality. His appreciation for sisters stems from his childhood.
“As a kid growing up in Trinidad I was surrounded by the beauty of creative and powerful women, so I have always had this incredible respect and worship for women.”
Now that Regis has pulled us in, and the conversation has started, what’s next?
“I honestly don’t think that my art can singlehandedly heal the world, but a lot of healing can happen in a discussion, and that’s movement in the right direction,” he says.
It’s safe to say that movement, activism and discussion are needed now, more than ever.
To learn more about Miles Regis, visit milesregis.com
This article first appeared on EBONY.COM