Gifford’s work is an inquiry of cultural intersection that examines the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq through the lens of her partnership with husband Ronnie Khoder. She interprets moments of conflict, and connection in her relationship with her husband, their families, and their respective communities as a result of their individual and political histories in Aiken, South Carolina and Mosul, Iraq. Highlighting the intensity, fear, humor, vulnerability, and grief in these moments of intersection, the art uses personal experiences to speak to larger social and political realities and humanizes them.
By positioning her work in the liminal space between cultural extremes, politics, languages, and religions, Gifford acknowledges the uncertainty of multiple truths existing at once. Inviting audiences into this middle ground, she asks “ What happens when two sets of realities collide and they can no longer exist separately?”. The artwork seeks to confront the residue of where we come from and what we choose to carry with us into a new space that must be created. She postures the monumentality of cultural collision against the delicate and intimate process of stitching cultures together.
Materially, the work is rooted in her experience as a residential builder as well as traditional sculptural materials including plaster, bronze, wood and steel. Gifford’s process references traditions of the cultural and religious artifacts that often inform her work. Narratives are constructed with expanded layers of media, often including sound, video, drawing, performance, and interactivity, which situate them in a contemporary context.
Building upon art historical dialogues surrounding orientalism, religious art, and architecture, Gifford’s work speaks directly to contemporary concerns of migration, diaspora, trauma, religious extremes and global conflict. The artwork critiques the impact of colonialism, American Imperialism, privilege, and American evangelical culture as the artist evaluates her own responsibility to unlearn.
The work is often collaborative, utilizing the voices and stories of the artist, her husband and their families, who are all equal partners in the production of the work.
Kayla Gifford was raised in Aiken, South Carolina. At age 16 she attended a public boarding school for emerging artists, The SC Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities in Greenville, SC. She studied Sculpture at Memphis College of Art, and Clemson University prior to a 6 year career in construction as a builder and project manager. In 2016 Gifford and her partner, Ronnie Khoder, met while working in the construction industry in Columbus, OH and began making artwork together. In 2017 she enrolled at The Ohio State University where she continued studying sculpture, and completed coursework in Arabic, Middle Eastern Studies, and Peace Studies related to her undergraduate research. In 2019 she was awarded honorable mention by the International Sculpture Center for her work Cultural Capitals. Gifford received her BFA in Fine Arts with a minor in Arabic from OSU in 2021 graduating with honor’s and research distinction. Currently Gifford teaches in Columbus ,OH through the City of Columbus and the Wexner Center for the Arts where she is invested in building community through arts programming in her historically under-resourced community of North Linden. Gifford and Khoder continue to produce work together splitting their time between Columbus and the Middle East. Their studio is located in Columbus, OH where Gifford continues her research and prepares to pursue a graduate degree.