Painter Chris Miroyan on Family History, Early Art Education, and Interconnection

Painter Chris Miroyan in front of her latest work, Macrocosmos.

By: Molly Ressler 

Chris Miroyan grew up hearing stories about her grandfather. Before going to his job as a night watchman at a local factory in Tupelo, Mississippi, he would spend his time in restaurants sketching the patrons. His subjects would often buy him dinner in exchange for their portrait.

In 1933 he suffered a fatal accident on one of his night shifts when he fell into an empty elevator shaft. Chris never saw any of his sketches. Those few drawings he hadn’t given away for a hot meal were lost in a tornado a couple years after his death. “Stories like these abound in my family history,” says Chris. “I think all the crazy Southern Gothic family stories continue to influence my world view and my art on some level.” 

Kindling a creative spark 

Through these family stories, Chris’s parents planted the seed early on that she could be a professional artist someday.  “My family always said, ‘Chris is going to carry that torch forward and be an artist,” she says. “They were always very supportive and encouraging of my art.” 

Her childhood education in South Carolina also helped kindle her creative spark. Although the state at the time was rated 48th in education, it was second only to New York in its funding for the arts. “That early art exposure really gave me my life,” says Chris. “I think art supports all the other disciplines in education. It inspires creative, critical, and out-of-the-box thinking and problem solving so I try where I can to help support it here in our local community.” 

A look behind the canvas 

Chris works primarily with acrylics in a studio she built on her property in Aptos 15 years ago. (To support her “art habit” she also runs an AirBnB out of her house.) Although her medium remains the same, her art has gone through several major evolutions over the years. “I’ve always felt that we’re all processing the world and distilling the world through our work. For me, personally, I’ve always gone to the work to process whatever’s going on in my life. For better or for worse I recalibrate every few years and my art shifts sort of radically.” 

Some of her past work features a series called Ancestors consisting of anthropomorphized birds fully dressed in button down shirts, old-fashioned dresses, and party hats. Over the past two years, however, her work has moved into the abstract. She’s been experimenting with building up a canvas by layering different textures and weights of acrylic until she decides it’s time to “deconstruct” it. The deconstruction process involves using power tools like sanders and  dremels to selectively sand, peel, and scrape away sections of the layering. “I really love [with acrylics] how you can layer very quickly and develop a history very quickly,” says Chris.

The importance of interconnection

It often takes Chris some time to figure out the story behind a collection of work but eventually the message comes through. Her current series of abstract pieces are a commentary on how all life on our planet is interconnected down to a microscopic level. “The world is so crazy right now. It feels crazy everywhere like we’re spinning off center. It is all connected and if we don’t figure out soon that it’s interconnected we’re going to wipe ourselves out.” 

This new body of abstract work is titled Macrocosmos and is part of Pajaro Valley Arts’ 2020 fundraiser exhibit, Take Aways: Art to Go! opening January 22nd and running through March 8th. The show consists of over 900 rotating pieces by 77 artists, all under $300. The artwork will rotate over the duration of the show as the purchased pieces are replaced with a different canvas.

Chris has been actively involved with the nonprofit gallery for years. Proceeds from the Take Aways exhibit will allow Pajaro Valley Arts to continue to provide arts education programs to local school groups and free access to the arts to everyone in the Pajaro Valley and south Santa Cruz County community.

You can also see Chris’s Macrocosmos series at Gallery 125 at the Tannery on First Fridays, and anyone is welcome to set up an appointment to visit her home studio. 

Find out more about Chris’s artwork at chrismiroyan.com

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Molly Ressler is a writer and content marketing consultant based in Santa Cruz. She lives with her husband and pup in Seabright and loves sharing her community’s vibrant culture through her writing.