“I am interested in the stories places tell about people, and the stories people tell about places.”
Belonging and emotional connection are central themes in Filipino-American painter Mikey Yates’ (b.1992, Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Germany) work. His portraits of family, friends, and places of sentimental value are at once both deeply personal and universally relatable. They portray seemingly mundane yet cherished moments snapshots of repose and recreation; from evening games of chess played at the dining table, to sofa sessions and holiday gatherings with relatives. The compositions are intimate and comfortable. As the viewer you are invited into Yates’ private inner world where you are made to feel like part of the family, entirely at ease.
The spirit of home comfort that pervades Yates’ work stems from a childhood spent frequently relocating and on account of his parents’ military careers. In each new location, Yates would re-enter the process of assimilating into his new environment and building new relationships with the people there, supported by quality time spent with those closest to him. One constant present in the various localities was basketball. As a widely played and accessible sport, Yates developed a deep affinity for basketball at a young age playing in Bavaria and later in the Philippines, which in turn provided a consistent sense of normalcy and security in each new setting.
Yates’s first large-scale painting, ‘Hoop Dreams’ (2018), celebrated his long-standing love for basketball. He offers us a candid glimpse of his bedroom, where his adolescent self reclines on his bedroom and idly tosses and catches a ball in the air in a practiced motion, dreaming of one day playing in the NBA. On the wall behind we see a carefully arranged display of tear-sheet posters from Slam magazine – a nesting ritual he developed when settling in a new place. A ray of light streaks across the textured wall and this rudimentary hall of fame, illuminating the sport stars frozen mid-action in their moments of glory. Many may relate to this method of building a safe space, a sanctuary for the anxiety and worries of modern life. In presenting us his own, Yates welcomes us to reflect on the impact that the people and places have on us, and what it really means to feel at home.
Mikey Yates is based in Kansas City, MO. He has earned a BFA from Missouri State University and recently completed an MFA at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has been exhibiting his work in solo and group shows across the US and also in the UK and Morocco since 2018. Yates’ work has featured in It's Nice That, BOOOOOOOM!, YNGSPC, Create Magazine & Friend of the Artist, and was selected for the MFA annual issue of New American Paintings, curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody.