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Artist Uses Work to Spark Healing Conversations

LA-based artist Miles Regis creates art for social justice and to bring about change. It’s not just paint, and it’s not just anger — Miles’s work transcends both.

Video Transcript

Miles Regis: For me, it’s about what impacts our society. How can I have people start conversations that help us reflect and feel and get a better understanding of where we’re at so that as we move forward, there’s a better sense of “us.”

Narrator: When you look at Miles’s paintings, you’ll see faces speaking up. Bodies moving for change. They’re dripping in the call for social justice. But it’s not just paint and it’s not just anger. Miles’s work transcends both.

Chinatown, Los Angeles

Narrator: For his latest installation, Miles worked with the Institute for Art and Olfaction to combine chemical scents with his paintings. He literally sorted through hundreds of scents, like grapefruit, smoke and waste. During intense political and racial time, Miles wanted to enhance the impact of his work.

Miles Regis: I used the scent that gave you a sense of burning, smelt like ash or smoke. That burning scent, I wanted to relate that to civil unrest and, you know, past civil right movement situations and sometimes people attack you because they don’t really understand that your experience is multi-layered. So to them it comes across as anger. And it’s not a one-dimensional thing.

Yes, there’s anger. There’s definitely an element of anger, but I’m not an angry black man. You know? And there’s a lot to be angry about. Clearly. You know, let’s not joke around about it. There’s a lot to be angry about. I’m not gonna apologize for expressing my truth. At the end of the day, that’s what an artist needs to do.

You’re going to deal with ugly. You can’t help but deal with ugly, because that’s the reality. Sometimes, you know, you need to deal with what life is throwing at you at that time and for me, art is like a release. I always say, sometimes I have these pieces in my head, and once I do it, it’s almost like you’ve like thrown up. It’s the same feeling. It’s kind of painful and it’s like uh, it’s out and it’s done. I’m freed of that emotion. I’m good.

Narrator: A great poet once said that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. That’s exactly Miles’s goal.

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