Saturday, July 01, 2017

July Unicorn Of The Month: Malayka Gormally


In my oil paintings I use the figure to explore emotional vulnerability and connection between people of disparate races and generations. The subjects of my work stem from personal observation both within my community as well as in communities that have aspects of familiarity to me yet challenge my preconceptions. From my perspective, the diversity reflected in this lens matches that of the world around me — one occupied by people of various ages, body types, genders, and ethnicities. I am interested in the ways in which this perspective, an iteration of a life that is recognizably normal to me and most people I know, appears out-of-the-ordinary within the context of the figurative canon.


Malayka Gormally is a figurative painter, curator, and commission portrait artist. Her paintings are included in the City of Seattle Portable Works Collection and Safeco Insurance Collection, and have exhibited in group and two-person exhibitions throughout the US.

Malayka’s childhood in Berkeley influenced her interest in equity and social awareness, as she grew up during the integration of public schools and Vietnam War protests in the streets. With her figurative paintings, she aims to reflect the world around her — one occupied by people of various ages, genders, ethnicities, and body types. 

Since 1997, Malayka has painted portraits on commission for over 100 collectors in the United States and Europe, including individuals who have served as board members for the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery, and the Palm Springs Art Museum. Malayka also curates the rotating art exhibitions of corporate properties in the Seattle region.
My photographs inspire my iPad drawings, which I use as source material for my paintings. I intentionally maintain the linear quality of the figures, a device commonly enlisted to depict a generalized “person” (such as in cartoons or graffiti), to depict specific individuals with recognizable emotions in nuanced moments of interaction. The specific nature of the emotions expressed in the figures has the power to resonate with personal experiences from the viewer’s life. Some of my work utilizes overlapping figures suspended over bands of color, referencing sequential moments of time as well as film frames.    



Growing up in Berkeley profoundly influenced my interest in equity and social awareness, as my childhood included both the integration of public schools and anti-war protests in the streets. At home, my father told of surviving the Nazi occupation of his native Holland, and my mother spoke of her Jewish grandparents escaping pogroms in Poland and traveling through Ellis Island to the United States. 

Though I’m haunted by their stories, they push me to create imagery of the measure of social integration that I experience in my current life — precipitating my body of work Gatherings. My community of friends and relatives were the subject of this body of work. The majority of my friends and relatives are in the arts and so these paintings have also served as a documentation of an artistic community.


For my body of work Beachlife, I based my paintings on the unselfconscious beach culture of Spain and Italy. I wanted to create these paintings for a US audience, particularly women, to provide a jumping-off point for reflection about how we feel about ourselves. Women in the US are much more self-constrained about our bodies, which adds to the measure of disempowerment that we feel. Cognizant of my role as a woman painting other women, I address women's concerns about body size and image, and my paintings reflect a range of physiques and stages of life.

These paintings investigate women’s place in society with the implicit aim of subverting the male historical painting canon. By creating art that depicts women and families spending time together while quite physically exposed, I hope that we reconsider our own anxieties and judgments about our bodies.


To see more of Malaykas' work, check out her Website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook Page.