Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Niles depicts portraits of a community he calls home, revisiting his childhood terrain. The goal in painting these subjects so intimately familiar to the artist is to provide the viewer with a tour of his hometown neighborhood – a place he refers to as occupying a “middle space”, a uniquely American in-between of poverty and middle class.
Niles questions, in his work, the areas that he occupied for the majority of his life, and what it was that motivated decisions being made within these domains. Of particular interest to the artist lies the power dynamics that play out in interpersonal relationships and on his canvas: who is the protected versus the protector? How are genuine connections being forged or purposefully avoided? A rich orange hue floods each work, rendering his subjects with a noble glow, further enhanced by the halo-effect of glittered hair and beards.
In returning to this revisited series, Niles has taken the opportunity to push the conversations between each exterior neighborhood painting further, with the inclusion of a new interior canvas. A connection between each canvas hanging is integral to Niles’ practice, and with the addition of the interior, the relationships of the paintings in the show shift and open up new dialogue.
A component previously missing from this series, we now see what occurs inside of this community’s homes. A young boy playfully stands in his living room waiting. The lone solitary subject of these paintings, he lacks a human protector. We see in the background the thin red outline of a “seeker”, an external force ever present in Niles’ canvases, forcing us to confront that the outside world may inescapably penetrate the home. Always questioning his surroundings, these are the topics that drive Niles through his quiet scenes, anchored by dichotomously settled, yet chaotic environments.