Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 24 inches.
Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 24 inches.
Acrylic on Canvas, 11 x 14 inches.
Acrylic on Canvas, 11 x 14 inches.

In the dark days of sorcery, long before the prevalence of hard science, bones were cast for the purpose of divination. Archaeologists could read into the past after sifting the chalky remains of sarcophagi. Bones lurched up from the wilding ground could lead a forensic pathologist to a murderer’s doorstep. Bones were made to dance in the work of Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, and the conjoined bones of a skeletal frame were a distinct reminder for the ancient Egyptians of the transient flesh.

In the sensual paintings of Kyoko Miyabe, though bones are ever-present, the focus is shifted. To immerse oneself in these small worlds, canonized by color, is to descend into a Galapagos of the soul. This is art that sets its face against the gestural landscape of the male Abstract Expressionists, for the female body does not lull the gaze, but the displacement of the body discarnate—in Miyabe’s work, figures jell in the primordial swirl, and a primitive vertebration (with a column of eggs alongside as an enduring symbol of feminine power) stands lankly amid the gentling wash. There is certainly a Cubist element here, and one is tempted to name the curve and swoops of Henry Moore’s sculptural experiments, but our sense of wonder is not so easily diagrammed, for the artist provides no guideposts to help simplify our response. So the paintings coolly maintain their cabal, and the viewer revels in the squidding shapes and summer-seeming color tempered by ambition.

These are not spot-weld jobs done in a clap, nor mere candy kisses from the unconscious. Instead, within the infusions of a sun-touched orange meeting a brushy blue, we can detect the rhythm of celestial mechanics. The longer we look the further we see into the bursts of star ruby intermixed with hints of golden beryl and blue moonstone. We are as soothed as if reentering those wind-soft moments of an idyllic past, where a lean of trees rustled against the cyanic sky.

Kyoko Miyabe is an artist and a faculty member at SVA. Her paintings and drawings have been exhibited in New York and Philadelphia. She is currently translating a book of Japanese tanka poems for an English edition. Two of Kyoko’s paintings, part of the Bird Bone series featured here, were recently displayed in a group show at Van Der Plas gallery in New York City in April 2017.

Edwin Rivera is a Writing Instructor at SVA and Editor of The Match Factory.