Art Installed: Jewel Toned Paintings Inspired by the Darkroom

Today's install is courtesy of Ann Connelly Fine Art in Baton Rouge, LA.

Ann Connelly has been in the art consultation business for well over 20 years. She represents contemporary artists whose focus leans towards botanical abstraction. 

Her latest install features three of my jewel toned paintings on paper, which were framed by the gallery's framing experts, hung over a fireplace in a newly designed living area. I usually don't get excited about art matching the furniture, but I have to comment on how much I love the velvet pillows and orange table, that make this otherwise monochromatic space a design jewel.

Art Installed: Jewel Toned Paintings. Image courtesy of Ann Connelly Fine Art.

Art Installed: Jewel Toned Paintings. Image courtesy of Ann Connelly Fine Art.

When Ann shared this picture on her Facebook page, a commenter asked if these were linocuts or lithographs. I guess the printmaker in me is alive and well - I do think in terms of layers and building imagery like a printmaker, which is why I studied Printmaking in combination with Drawing at the Memphis College of Art way back when. 

As I was working on these, I was reminded of the times I used to help my father process photographs in his darkroom. He owned a photo studio in Clinton, NJ., and I loved being in there with his music blaring while we would process pictures together. He would sit at the enlarger and ask me to hand him the paper, make the exposure, and then hand it back to me so I could then place it in the baths of developer, stop, and fixer. The red darkroom lamps cast their light on every surface, making the experience feel like a dream, and when we finished our work, the door would open and the rest of the world, with all of its bright lights and demanding colors would come flooding back in. The darkroom was like our refuge back then.

These pieces are NOT prints, or photographs, but are done the slow way - painting by hand. The monochromatic tones were masked off to set the stage for the drawings (which I did from some of the paper sculptures I have in my studio) in paint using a variety of brushes and even sticks to create the lines of the work. 

I hope you enjoy them! To see the rest of my jewel toned paintings from this series, visit my page on Ann's website

Creating a Happy Place & Sifting for Personal Truth

"If I had a chance to talk to Michelangelo, I would want to know about what inspired him. The anatomy of his craftsmanship. Not about who he went out with last night or why he decided to sit out in the sun so long. That's what's important to me." - Michael Jackson


We live in a luxurious era of personal power. We have access to more resources, more tools, and more knowledge than any generation before us. It has been said that knowledge is power, and so I wonder why so many of us struggle when it comes to personal power. I'm curious to understand why we use tactics that obscure our paths, when the way is clearly a matter of following what is most important to us, and caring about how we feel.

Abby Lee Miller knows what I'm talking about...

Abby Lee Miller knows what I'm talking about...

What sells magazines, and what has become the touchstone of American media are the motivations of our emotional desires to belong, have significance, and feel in control. We've been fed this "American Dream" concept for so long, each one of us having our own respective fantasies, and media posturing its influence so that the marketplace can be measured and controlled. Conspiracy? Not really.

Where does the individual reside in all this? I pondered this as I sat in the waiting area during my daughter's dance class. A middle-aged woman walked in with hair-sprayed bangs, orange pleated mom shorts (likely from Target) and a Louis Vuitton bag. No perfume. Mind you, we are in Mandeville, Louisiana. If I plucked her out of this moment and placed her in Miami or Los Angeles, she would end up on some sort of fashion comedy blog, but I'm not going to tell her that. Bless her heart - I smiled sweetly at her as she walked past. All these months we have been in this waiting room together, and she hasn't once made eye contact with me when I look up to say hello. 

Oh well...maybe next time.

Oh well...maybe next time.

A lot of people function like the Target Vuitton Dance Mom. So much so that I have developed a sort of protective armor when it comes to strangers. I have been around refined, affluent people for a good part of my life, and have also been graced with knowing many people from humble beginnings. You know what they all have in common? The nice ones LOOK AT YOU in the eyes. Yes! This phenomenon has nothing to do with the status of material accumulation. From extreme highs and lows - they see you, and they offer themselves to you in return. They have the power to look you in the eye, even if they take the liberty to roll their eyes soon thereafter. 

Jokes aside, I am not the sort of person to condemn another for their clothing, but then again, with respect to fashion as a means of communication, I learn a lot about people and what they value by how they look. I have met people who have covered themselves in fashion to hide their hollow shell of a personality, and people who have changed the world in flip flops.


So where are we in the process of creating a happy place for ourselves? Where are we in sifting through the mess and finding our diamonds of inner truth? In other words, where are we in relation to what is most important to us?

When we reach the state of connectivity by releasing our unnecessary desires, our productivity flourishes. I'm learning ways to get there and stay there more easily.

Here are some of my favorite exercises:

1. Listen to fiction. 

This sounds sort of funny, but I have been weaning myself off of an addiction to non-fiction. Instead, I have immersed myself in the imaginations of others. I'm not talking about the alternative facts on the "news". ;) I'm talking about novels, movies, or poetry. One of my recent favorites, and an easy one to read, is J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy". This novel is not for children, but is definitely a magical tale of small town politics and the human condition. Brilliant in its own right.

2. Self-compassion.

Next time you are feeling in the throes of hell, try writing down how you're feeling. Once you've gotten it all out, then take a moment to distance yourself. Take a walk, fix a cup of tea or coffee, or if you like you can actually put the letter in the mail at the post office (addressed to yourself). After some time, or when the letter arrives, pretend that you are reading a note written by your best friend. On a new sheet of paper, write them back and be as supportive as you can be. Send the letter back in the mail or go take a walk again. This is the art of self-compassion in the form of written communication. How much easier our personal burdens would be to handle if we could share them and get advice from someone who not only knows us better than anyone, but who we fully trust to act with the intention of loving and helping us along the way. 

3. Forget about it.

My mom and grandmother came over the other day, and I was having a rough time with deadlines, clogged pipes, breaking cars, amongst other worldly things. It wasn't the best time for company, but I wanted them to come anyway to see the girls. She asked me how I was doing, and I told her the truth, since she hardly remembers short-term things since developing dementia. But without hesitation, she responded "Mia, why don't you just go lay down and watch some tv and forget about it. Don't let anything bother you. Go relax". It caught me off-guard. I was expecting an "oh, it'll be ok" but she told me to go watch tv. I looked at her silently for a moment, kind of wanting to laugh because I wasn't sure if she heard me. I gave her a hug and returned to my studio, and thought about what she said. Here's a person who has survived for 92 years....she must know what she is talking about. So I returned to the house and fixed us some fresh coffee, and sat down on the couch with her and my mom, completely letting go of what had been stressing me out all morning. You'll never guess what happened - when I returned back to work, the issues had worked themselves out, the car started, and the pipes cleared. 


My own definition of the "American Dream" is very much like what I already have. I am surrounded by people who love me (even if they don't understand where I'm coming from or think I'm a little cray), I get to wake up each day and work on my life's work, which provides me with challenges to keep me busy, and the relationships I hold onto and the ones I maintain are the ones that love me back the way I want to be loved. 

I remember seeing this interview with Michael Jackson when it first was released, and thinking 'how could such a beautiful person could be so widely misunderstood'. Maybe the public bought and consumed their own fears. Maybe no one wanted to believe that someone could be so powerful and so kind. Maybe Michael knew what was really important to him, and so nothing else mattered.

Palette Study: Observing life as an open-ended mood board.

A large part of my artistic practice is based on real-time observation and recording. When I first started painting landscapes regularly in 2008, I was using it as a way to reset my mind. All that gets accumulated over the years, in my case all that I had learned about art and being a working artist became a burden to the person within me who just liked to make things that felt right without concern about who "likes it" or not. Particularly in school when I was asked to write about the concept for bodies of work before I even started making them, I struggled. 

Later on, I came to understand why writing is introduced in the beginning of the creative process as a planning method for organizing thoughts before action, but of course not everyone goes through the front door of thought. In fact many artists who I relate to on a personal level share my method of reflecting upon creation. This process of creating a statement based on an amass of actual experience presents quite the challenge, because I could easily work from photos and make an entire body of work about Tokyo without actually being there, but I believe being there and working through the experience of being there makes the quality of my work more authentic, and it is my belief that we need authenticity in our lives - not just vibes, but a true understanding of what makes the vibration what it is. So what happens if I make a shift in my way of thinking about how things should or shouldn't happen? Do we all arrive at the same result when experiencing a person's art either way, or can YOU tell the difference between surface work and the deep stuff?

And so I carried around this conundrum when it came to mood boards...rejecting the idea of collecting stimuli that was not taken directly from personal experience. How much easier it would be to collect images of things that already existed from all over the world instead of relying upon myself to create a personal palette from observational scratch. Maybe I chose the long way around with my rules and such, but in doing so, I can tell you what's growing in my back yard because I've been there studying it for years. I have become quite the expert in documenting the subtle temperature changes in color found in the landscape as seasons change, the corresponding palettes and blooming cycles. So it seems that I have been creating mood boards all along - but in reverse! I'm delighted to share with you a brief synopsis of my findings, in the form of these swatch palettes, with selections of my favorite colors from each time of year.

October/Fall Palette. Marsh painting from Big Branch Marsh NWR. 

October/Fall Palette. Marsh painting from Big Branch Marsh NWR. 

Autumn is about letting go of all the beautiful things we relished in Summer, embracing the natural transition of life into earth. My favorite colors in Fall are actually the ones that play between the crisp, soft blues on cold days and the golden wheat, chestnut, and deep earth tones that create a wonderful foundation for their evergreen accents. Without a foundation of these yellow ochres, raw siennas and burn umbers, we wouldn't have the same appreciation for the rest of life's colors.

January/Winter Palette. Painting of trees in my backyard in Lacombe, LA.

January/Winter Palette. Painting of trees in my backyard in Lacombe, LA.

Winter palettes are distinct from Fall palettes because they largely represent the evergreen population which gets so much play during the holidays versus the bold changes that occur when leaves change, but my favorite thing about Winter is moments is when I feel so c-c-c-cold, and then the sun comes out. So while the color palette is rather stark - icy ultramarine blues, muted bark tones, and deep cool greens, there is that wonderful hint of peach which represents the sun hitting the bark of the cold trees, and this peach becomes more prominent as the year continues. 

Spring Palette. Painted from the gardens in my front yard which house a variety of lilies, wildflowers, grasses, jasmine, and a Japanese Plum.

Spring Palette. Painted from the gardens in my front yard which house a variety of lilies, wildflowers, grasses, jasmine, and a Japanese Plum.

There is no time of year that rocks the world of minty greens, sunshine hansa yellow, corals (remember the peach?) and plum hues like Spring. A lady I adore once described her friend's style as "fauvist at heart", and I think that's really what Spring is all about...pastels balanced against their bold complements. 

June Palette. Painted from Bayou Liberty in Slidell, LA. 

June Palette. Painted from Bayou Liberty in Slidell, LA. 

When people discuss hallucinations from heat of the dessert, I can relate from my own sphere. It doesn't take an ounce of peyote to feel the electricity of a hot summer day in the swamps. All of the colors are on fire, with perhaps a little relief in the delicate summer blooms, but Summer is and will always be the most passionate palette in my book. My favorite colors from this time are the deep cadmium yellows and reds, the cobalt and prussian blues.

In between the changes throughout the year, there is one thing that seems to remain consistent, and that is the colors that happen at dawn and dusk each day. When mixed with these seasonal palettes, we experience a complex harmony in our environment.

And so this idea of studying nature is not new, but following the path of studying these small changes has given me an appreciation for details that I had missed when I only knew the surface, and a deeper connection to life itself.

I'll leave you with this look at the seasons according to artist David Hockney, where he documents the same path from his hometown at different times of year, and how he used his love of painting these changes to influence how others see the world.




Another Year of The New Normal: Adapting to Inspirations and Technology

Embracing the Leap

A week or so ago, my LinkedIn profile informed me that I was celebrating another year at Mia Kaplan Studio. I can still remember the moment I decided to make the leap into the unknown, having had a salaried job during the day and painting at night, working in a place that was ok but far from my dream, and finally reaching the point where I decided that I needed to make some drastic and serious changes.

I quit, I jumped, and I admit there was panic at first, fear that "living the dream" was but a masked nightmare that involved rolling around on the floor screaming in simultaneous terror and delight, unsure of which feeling was real, like falling in love before the lights turned on. It wasn't until I learned how to chill out, and looked around to discover that I had survived, that I got behind the wheel of my ship and found the patience to learn how to navigate my new life. 

My "new normal", as I lovingly call it, was created by making a list of what I wanted each day to be like: waking up surrounded by people I love, having positive working relationships based on shared values and a common goal of making the world a little more delicate and thoughtful. I shifted my focus to conversing primarily about things that mattered to me, and worked hard to become a listener.

The Internal Work

This internal work took years, and is best described as a shedding of skin, an undergoing of rediscovering things I had forgotten about myself. On occasion I would assist my husband on his photo shoots, and one of our subjects was a gifted jeweler named Katy Beh. The photos were for an article being written discussing rituals, and we photographed her at home writing on yellow steno pads. Each morning, she told us, she would write without any specific goal, just to empty her mind, and I found this fascinating, much like my own process with sketchbooks in the morning. So I tried it at times when it wasn't appropriate to draw, I simply wrote whatever was on my mind that morning. It was cathartic, and deeply satisfying to empty my thoughts onto the pages and move on. My new writing ritual turned into the inspiration for the yellow notebook page patterns used in "Flowers for Peggy".

"Flowers for Peggy". Painted Aluminum Wall Sculpture. Photo: Cedric Angeles

"Flowers for Peggy". Painted Aluminum Wall Sculpture. Photo: Cedric Angeles


The second major change I underwent was unexpected. My cousin Scheherezade in Los Angeles convinced me to join her on a couple of Angelino escapades, two of which were an 8-hour white tantric yoga workshop, and a five day transformational training program called M.I.T.T. (Mastery in Transformational Training). I was just going at first because she asked me to go, expecting nothing aside from my hopes of being good company for her.

It is hard to illustrate the effects of these experiences, but when I was referring to the rediscovery of things I had forgotten about myself, these experiences provided such insights. I had forgotten about the special powers I have had since I was a kid, powers I feel that we all have of clear intention and intuition, but for whatever reason I stopped trusting these powers. So I took them back! 

Managing Inspiration

Here's how it happens: you're walking along and suddenly something grabs your attention. It speaks to you. It could be a thought or an image, or the way pine needle trees grow in my case. The thought of managing something so organic as coming across and collecting fleeting moments of inspiration might seem like a buzz-kill, but I see it the way many people have connected to shopping, as a "retail therapy" of sorts whose transaction involves no salesperson or intermediary.

It IS possible and even considered normal among workhorse creatives to develop a system for collecting thoughts, and lately I have expanded my repertoire beyond the sketchbook and yellow steno pads to include technology. Apps like Evernote are an example of how technology has entered the picture to assist in the creative process by allowing one to collect and categorize information, and even share it with others. I was not into the idea of "mood boards" at first, but to manage visual information and reference, Pinterest is like having an endless supply of cork boards to find common threads in a big picture. It wasn't until I added a bunch of pins of my work to my Pinterest page that I was able to see a large volume of my work at once, and it helped me understand what I was doing. Furthermore, Pinterest suggests similar pins to complement imagery, which is revealing to see how something so personal fits into the aggregation of everyone else's imagery. My favorite discovery from Pinterest was the popularity of my line drawings for boards about tattoo ideas. Maybe I missed a calling as a tattoo designer? 

The External Work

So I find myself currently in an external phase, having renovated this old mental house, I have been working lately on physical projects. Using technology as just another tool in my workshop. After all, we live in a time where 3D printers can print a bust in marble using fifteen photos of a person. We are not so limited by our physical capabilities, but by our belief in our own potential as human beings. There are less limitations between our ideas and our output now more than ever.

#OWNIT & #WAYSTOGROW Campaigns for Intuit Quickbooks.

On this journey, I have acquired an unexpected love of Math for the harmony it creates, and thus I love and use the new Quickbooks self-employed app to keep my business in order. I use it because it makes a lot of sense for my business type as a freelancer, and instead of sitting behind a computer, I can categorize things and even send invoices on the phone while sitting out in the woods. Really. I have done this many times.

So I suppose it isn't quite unreasonable to imagine, but a delightful happenstance that I was recently part of one of their recent campaigns for web advertising. I'm not going to write much more here, as there are now six videos. They asked me all sorts of questions about my approach to business, and how I give back to my community and balance personal life with business life. 

Just in time for tax season, right? :) Hope you enjoy them.


What the Swamp Means to Me: Healing Arts at MBPCC Baton Rouge

“If we can make those who come here say ‘What in the world is that?’ in those nanoseconds, we’ve been successful in introducing beauty,”
— Linda Lee, administrator for the MBP cancer center.
At the opening of the MBPCC in Baton Rouge.  

At the opening of the MBPCC in Baton Rouge.  

"What the swamp means to me", collection of MBPCC Baton Rouge

"What the swamp means to me", collection of MBPCC Baton Rouge

Many times in this practice of art making, I run into moments where I feel like I'm having a conversation with my subject, and the response becomes predictable. It's true that I talk to things like dragonflies, plants birds, and that I often call my dog "Son". The response is the usual. And for people I get a pattern of common responses.

The piece I created for Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center started as a conversation between myself and one of my dealers. She asked if it was possible to make something that felt like my wall sculpture but was more "public friendly". I smiled. My prior wall sculptures use hand-cut and painted aluminum and a variety of collage materials, which make these works delicate and with sharp points. I resounded with a "yes" and got to work with the translation. I do enjoy a challenge.

When I begin a work, I think about how I want the work to feel. I begin with a fluid outline, a series of messy gestures which then are edited into their forms. After the work was completed from a formal standpoint (from the dimensional guidelines I was given), I then focused on painting the work.  

I don't do in-depth planning when I create. Instead, I know the direction to take, and I allow the work to talk back, to begin a conversation much like those I'd have with a dragonfly. This particular piece came at a time when I was into the electric colors of the sky, and the way these colors seemed unreal. So I took to painting a variety of skies, capturing the soft gesture of clouds, grasses dancing below, the reflection of the sky on water. I painted at different times a day to create balance and a spectrum of place. I allowed the paint to be watery and emotional. I added deeper line work back in to give the watery paintings some strength, and finished the edges first in liquid silver (thinking of reflection on water) and later in a deeper black to bring attention to the electric colors. 

What I didn't know was that the work was chosen for the reception area of the radiation unit. My romantic portrayal and homage to the sun's natural light had been put in a place where it was in tandem with healing radiation.

Linda and me in front of my work. This woman gives one of the best hugs I've ever had. She's pretty fabulous.  

Linda and me in front of my work. This woman gives one of the best hugs I've ever had. She's pretty fabulous.  

Linda Lee, the administrator of MBPCC told me that the receptionist at the radiation unit had received so much curious feedback from my work that she began a list of what visitors were seeing when they saw my work.

A list kept by the radiation unit receptionist of what some patients saw when they looked at my work.  

A list kept by the radiation unit receptionist of what some patients saw when they looked at my work.  

I could never have predicted this response. It brought tears to my eyes. Linda gave me a hug, but really I had been given the greatest gift- to know that I had made an impact and a time where faith and signs of transformation were truly needed.  

I'd like to thank Ann Connelly Fine Art for their visionary work, Linda Lee, and the selection committee of MBPCC-OLOL, the beautiful group of people who work at the center, and all the patients who shared their thoughts with me. My heart is yours. Thank you.


Learn more about MPBCC-OLOL:



Hello again, New Orleans

Mia Kaplan is returning to the French Quarter. YES, it's true!

Come experience an evening of Cajun food and contemporary art. Mia's new project in the quarter is also home of The Mosquito Supper Club (featuring the talents of chef Melissa Martin). The collaboration between MSC and MK aims to create an immersive environment that celebrates Cajun culture and the Louisiana landscape.

Supper club will be held every Thursday at 7:30pm starting September 3. Reservations are available now through December and can be purchased at

"Open Water" 2015. Acrylic and charcoal on canvas - 54 x 90 inches.

"Open Water" 2015. Acrylic and charcoal on canvas - 54 x 90 inches.