Shyama Golden’s Monstrous Alter-Ego Transfigures in a Surreal Mythological Narrative

a painting of a woman in a green suit sitting on a blanket in a cemetery with an alter ego sitting next to her that has a monstrous head

“Daydream of a Nocturne” (2023), oil on linen, 72 x 60 inches. All images © Shyama Golden, shared with permission

In Sri Lankan folklore, yakkas are demonic tricksters, and in the paintings of Shyama Golden, they’re alter egos. The Los Angeles-based artist presents a new body of work this month at Harper’s Chelsea that uses these mythological creatures to shatter the false binary of good and evil.

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Like earlier seriesIn My Mind, Out My Mind roots in narrative. “Daydream of a Nocturne” launches the uncanny storyline with a self-portrait of the artist seated in a cemetery next to a monstrous twin, rendered in unsettling washes of blues and greens. Subsequent works glimpse the artist traversing a meadow with one of her signature anthropomorphic trees on the horizon, before she appears peeking from the belly of a masked creature in “The Double.”

Golden’s journey is psychological as she attempts to greet and embrace her inner demons before emerging anew. Each portrait witnesses the next step in her metamorphosis before she slithers from a tree in her human likeness in the bizarrely beautiful “Blood Orange Moon.” Set in the concrete-walled Los Angeles River, the artist echoes the symbiotic and parallel transformations of psyche and environment.

In My Mind, Out My Mind is on view through June 22 in New York. If you’re in London, you can see one of Golden’s paintings at PM/AM through July 15. Otherwise, find more of her work on her website and Instagram.


a painting of a peacock on a gravestone surrounded by lush green grass, roses, and a deflated balloon

“Paradisification” (2023), oil on linen, 30 x 36 inches

a round painting of a woman with short black hair, a blue sweater, and red pants, walking through a meadow with a downed tree and orange road cones

“Restricted Area” (2024), oil on wood, 48 inches tondo

a barefoot creature in a fur suit and blue face walks along a road with a smaller figure peeking out from its torso

“The Double” (2024), oil on linen, 30x 36 inches

a car with its headlights on stops on a cliff-side road with a large creature lying in the road and it's belly opened up in a red split. a smaller, similar figure walks toward it

“Close to Home” (2024), oil on linen, 60 x 72 inches

red arms emerge from a hole in a tree to present a bright blue head with dark brown hair on a translucent sheet

“Afterbirth” (2024), oil on linen, 30 x 36 inches

a woman in a white tank top and pants crawls from a tree with a stream running nearby and a bright orange moon in the distance

“Blood Orange Moon” (2024), oil on linen, 60 x 72 inches

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