Miriam Zora Engel was born in Minnesota but raised between rural South Carolina and Seattle, Washington. In 2009, she returned to the Midwest to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she received both her Bachelor’s degrees, a BFA in Painting and Drawing as well as a BA in Visual and Critical Studies. Predominantly exploring subjects of perceptual experience, memory and color, Miriam paints with a variety of media including gouache, watercolor, oil, and homemade egg tempera. In 2014, she was awarded a merit scholarship to attend Oxbow School of Art’s winter painting program in Saugatuck, Michigan. She has worked on various mural projects in Chicago as well as in Latin America. She currently lives and works on the island of Oahu.
My work is largely about seeing and interpreting. Painting from observation is important to me because it challenges me to see the world in new ways, and also because the paintings I create invite others to see the world through my eyes.
I often think about the complex, nearly overwhelming nature of sight. Through painting, I allow myself to construct my own interpretation of these complexities. These interpretations never set out to be a direct copy of the outside world. Instead, they are transmutations that become infused with the subjective experience of selecting, absorbing, and remembering. In this way, painting becomes a process of seeing, a way through which to solidify the fleeting experience of observing the visual world.
I am greatly inspired by colorists and landscape painters such as Fairfield Porter and Henri Matisse. I’m drawn to dramatic outdoor scenes and colorful interiors. But perhaps most influential of all are the walks I take outside when the sun is out. This high contrast that occurs creates a world of boundless color. I might be captivated by the illumination of a red brick wall or the blue cast shadow of a lamppost on the ground. In these moments, looking becomes seeing, and it is just like painting; I mix colors in my mind and imagine how I would translate this realm of pulsing color onto a two-dimensional surface.
In the bustling city, taking the time to see is often neglected. This is something I am deeply interested in, prolonging these moments that might have gone overlooked.