Yeelen Gallery’s Newest Addition Ya Levy La’Ford Brings the Patterns of the Past Full Circle with Sublimation: Ancestral Patterns

 Image Courtesy of Yeelen Gallery

By: Alma Hill

Miami artist Ya Lara La’Ford is no newcomer to South Florida’s art scene. Her latest exhibit Sublimation, Ancestral Patterns, on exhibit now at the Yeelen Gallery is her sixth solo show in less than five months. Even though she is a veteran in the genre of contemporary art, this newest installation in her career promises to bring viewers an incredible look at her journey, as she seeks to find patterns between the past and the present, in a way that very well may shape our futures.

Born in New York, in 1979 she split much of her youth between New York and her family home in Florida, but it was the summers spent in Jamaica that had the greatest impact on her spirit as a contemporary artist. Her great grandfather is none other than John Dunkley, a famous artist and sculptor who has been called “One of modern Jamaica’s first and finest intuitive painters.”

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“I remember being exposed to the imagination,” La’Ford says. From a very young age, her parents encouraged her to explore her grandfather’s artistic legacy, a legacy she wears with pride.  “This imagination I think is what has paved these labyrinths and this narrative of patterns.”

The patterns La’Ford is referring to are the geometric shapes that can be found throughout her work. In fact, her art revolves around the visual patterns that she has become renowned for around the world. Dyed canvases with snaking shapes leave room for the imagination to run wild with interpretation, which is exactly how La’Ford intended.

Her most recent U.S exhibit, Sublimation, is an homage to all the ancestral patterns she has uncovered in her journey as an artist. What is truly interesting about her work is the many interpretations of the word “pattern” which she literally weaved into her tapestries. A collection six years in the making, La’Ford is finally ready to release this experience, a physical manifestation of her own experiences to the world.


 Image Courtesy of @CreatorsProject (Twitter)

She uses the space to give her art more life, and creates a journey for the onlooker, through abstract art, and the use of space. She compares abstract art to music. Her intention Is to create a conversation and use her art to bridge a gap culturally.

To better understand her work, you must first understand the journey. La’Ford traveled all over the world, searching for literal ancestral patterns of the African experience in different cultures. She visited the Palenque people in Columbia, a village filled with the descendants of escaped slaves from the Congo, who have managed to maintain their language and tradition for centuries. She traversed the streets of Cuba, where the voices of Afro-Cuban musicians reflected the influence of Celia Cruz and their African roots. Everywhere she went, she brought a piece of the culture back with her.

“Anywhere I go I pick up pieces and traces of the land. Whether it’s sand, whether it’s different leaves. These get ground into the fabric. I commit to these experiences within the canvas, relying on the sequence of memories that are manifested through these geometric layers that represent diverse but shared account.”

La’Ford literally makes the dyes for her canvas from the physical memories she brings back from her travels. Each piece represents a small piece of a larger culture, and each culture represents a larger piece of African history, a rich history La’Ford is determined to keep alive in her art.


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“Sometimes even though we’re displaced as people these patterns still arise.” She says. She points to braids used in Yoruba culture, passed down through countless generations. West African cooking traditions that find themselves presented in dishes all over the world. “Even if you’re not conscious of it, they’re there, these patterns. They passed on identity through these patterns.”

Her art is on display for all to enjoy at the Yeelen Gallery, located at located at 294 NW 54th Street, Miami, FL. The show is scheduled to run through the summer but for more exact details, contact Karla Ferguson,the gallery owner. This incredible artistic experience is not one to be missed. La’Ford takes our past and highlights all the subtle, yet graceful patterns of the black experience. She reminds us, in her own way that what our ancestors left behind, the repetitions in the sway of our hips, in the texture of our hair, in the way we live our daily lives is to be uplifted, appreciated, and transcended.Alma Hill is a 25 year old millennial with and old soul who appreciates a good meme as much as Miles Davis. Based in Orlando, FL she fills days writing freelance for about a half a dozen publications both in print and online, and obsesses over sushi on a regular basis.