Nykoli Koslow, based in Milwaukee, WI, employs an array of mediums, including painting, drawing, installation, video, and VR, to create a universe anchored in queer maximalism and alien semiotics. His work weaves together elements of abstraction and figuration, serving as a conduit for expressing the trans* experience within a queer, mythic cosmology. Drawing inspiration from personal narratives and a rich tapestry of influences, spanning mythology, religion, conspiracy theories, mysticism, and sci-fi, Nykoli's work immerses itself in the narratives that mold our world. Through the art of world-building, Nykoli poses the essential questions: 'What stories have shaped the world we inhabit today, and what stories can we craft to foster a more inclusive and liberated existence?
Nykoli earned his BFA in 2013 from the University of Milwaukee-Peck School of the Arts. Since then, he has exhibited his work in various venues in and around Milwaukee, including 'Translucent: A Transgender Empowerment Exhibition' at the Union Art Gallery in 2018 and the Museum of Wisconsin Art's '10 at 10' exhibition in 2023. In the years 2021-2022, Nykoli served as the Artist in Residence at the Pfister Hotel (Milwaukee, WI), culminating in the solo exhibition Queer Mythologies: TransAbstractions, at The Gallery Space in the Saint Kate Arts Hotel (Milwaukee, WI) in 2022. His work have is part of permanent collections, including the Pfister Hotel Legacy Collection and the North Western Mutual Art Program. In 2023, Nykoli was accepted into the fall cohort of the gener8tor Art X Sherman Phoenix Accelerator. Currently, Nykoli is represented by Var Gallery in Milwaukee, WI, where he recently had his solo exhibition 'Queer Cosmology: The Making of A Universe' in 2023.
My work transforms the trans* experience into a queer mythos and cosmology, exploring the complex intersections of identity and spirituality. I incorporate painting, drawing, and VR to create a cohesive world, with each practice playing an integral role. The drawings serve as the matrix and physics of the world, while the paintings display the beings and their mythic stories, along with the culture, society, and creatures that inhabit the world. The VR component showcases the ecology and atmosphere of the world, placing the beings in their surroundings and demonstrating how the gestures used in the drawings interact and interconnect the beings to their environment.
Through abstraction, the visual language of mark-making takes precedence and works metaphorically to express the particularity of my lived experience in a non-normative gender. The return to figuration utilizes narrative as a way to create my own doctrine. Loosely inspired, I spin my own myths to reimagine a religion and culture where trans* people are centered as deities and G-ds, and queerness is the norm.
Growing up queer in the 90s and attending conservative Christian schools inspired my practice of world-building as a form of escapism. In my current studio practice, I reflect the trauma of Christianized America back onto itself, with myself and my created worlds serving as unintended byproducts of today's religious fervor. Through paint, I transform the backwards morals of Christian Nationalism into a kinky playground, and their binary hate into a celebration of chromaphilia.
My paintings utilize both personal experiences and historical research to fuse narratives from trans* people, myth, and religion. I stay close to my familial cultural history of Ashkenazi Judaism, European Christianity, and associated folklore, and interweave my own personal narrative into these histories. The pivotal moments of my nonlinear transition - the dysphoria, euphoria, and social dispositions - sprout a pantheon of trans* deities who parallel my journey and become extensions of my identity.
These trans* deities exist in a universe informed by the etymology of the word queer, "twerkw," where lines become odd, bent, twisted, oblique, and inverted in the framework. This matrix is embodied by my drawings, where interconnected lines represent the ‘physics’ and invisible networks of my universe. By reworking moral, physical, and social laws, I create an ideology that is fluid, malleable, and open - a space where I can perpetually rewrite my own truth and reimagine my being. Through this process, I place myself in a history that has historically marginalized trans* people, validate my identity in a present that seeks to fight it, and envision new futures that were once unimaginable.