Kiyomi Quinn Taylor
Photos By Roman Dean
Ki Smith Gallery is pleased to present Half Life, the gallery’s first exhibition across both spaces with multimedia artist Kiyomi Quinn Taylor. With a staunch belief in both a life after death and the presence of the deceased in our lived realities, Taylor presents her audience with a world that is both fantastical and autobiographical; one built on memory, a rich family history, dreams, and fables.
Taylor borrows the word “half-life” from the study of radioactivity, defined as the time required for half of the atomic nuclei of a radioactive sample to decay. The exhibition’s title, Half Life is both a reference to the afterlife and the ongoing presence of the dead in the lives of the living, akin to radioactivity. The traumas experienced by her ancestors take shape as a never forgotten radioactive presence in the artist’s life, not unlike the supernatural narratives Taylor ascribes inspiration to. She was reminded of the role hyenas play in the afterlife while rewatching Xena: Warrior Princess; the included painting titled, The girls tomb (2021) makes use of this symbolism. Here three of her grandmothers are seen gathered around a miniature model of a town; a scene from a vivid childhood memory where the artist and her older brother scaled a cliff at night, then gazed down at the surrounding land from atop — their view included a neon-lit Johnny Rockets. The hyenas act as protectors flanking the grandmothers, each adorned with skin in radioactive shades of greens and blues.
Half Life also alludes to the halving of cultures ever present in Taylor’s genealogy. The alcove-shaped painting, Thirst for love (2021) depicts the union of her Black grandfather and Japanese grandmother; a destructive but fruitful couple framed by a similarly perilous underwater volcanic landscape teeming with aquatic life. The phrase “love lies bleeding” erupts from the volcano amongst the clouds of smoke, a plant name representing hopelessness and acting as an homage to her grandmother who was an avid gardener. Taylor similarly pays tribute to her heritage by layering patterned Japanese Washi Paper throughout her paintings, creating texture and depth.
Much like radioactivity, the afterlife and its players are present yet invisible. In Half Life Kiyomi Quinn Taylor has united said players with their shared genealogy, family narratives, and her lived reality to create a world that is authentically hers.
– Lucy Beni