Cayla Birk: Secrets Decoded

Red8 Gallery favourite and young rising star Cayla Birk creates cryptic canvases laden with hidden meaning from her Palm Beach studio. One of our hottest new discoveries for 2020, Cayla celebrated her first solo show named “Throwing Shade” at Maddox Gallery in Los Angeles last October and recently spoke to Artnet about her love of codes and ciphers.

“My artwork re-conceptualizes social and cultural subject matters”, explains Birk in her artist’s statement. “In my work, I allude to popular iconography, musical lyricism, and current verbal slang that pervade societal culture. Having engaged subjects as diverse as enlightened secret orders, hip-hop music and contemporary design, my work reproduces familiar visual signs, arranging them into new conceptually layered pieces.”

When one of Cayla’s canvases is sold she includes a secondary piece which helps the buyer to crack the code hidden in their new artwork. “Some people call it a talisman, some people call it a toy. It is a decoder above all, if I was going to call it something,” Cayla told Artnet.

One of Cayla’s early projects was Birktones, a series inspired directly by her former work with Panetone which helped nurture her interest in secret codes: “Let’s say we both worked for McDonald’s creatively: if I’m designing something here and you’re designing in India, and we want to use the exact same colors of red and yellow across multiple platforms, then we would know which exact colors to appropriate due to the Pantone numbers associated with each color.”

Purchasers of Cayla’s Birktones pieces also receive a spray paint canister which was used to create the artwork, a touch that puts them in direct contact with both the act of creation and the artist herself. More recently, Cayla’s “Scriptures” series reimagines handwritten medical prescriptions as provocative commentary on modern life, while “Periodic Table” remixes the chemical elements as key components of 21st century America such as “Brunch” and “Hustle”.

Cayla is keen to maintain the secrecy surrounding her hidden encryptions, but she does give clues to the meaning within. “For the ‘Periodic Table’ works, the atomic weight that’s on the bottom in each piece is also an alphanumeric cipher,” she told Artnet. “And then with the ‘Scripture’ works, these messages are encoded to just the RX number that’s featured only on the glass pill jars.”

So, what is the viewer to make of Cayla’s mysterious world of codes and ciphers? “I would like to think that my art, and its codes, in some way brings people outside of what they normally think and opens them up to something that they’ve never experienced before,” said Birk. 

Following her first solo show in Los Angeles last year, Cayla Birk’s artworks have received a significant uptick in interest from collectors around the globe. This is the ideal moment to invest in a rising star of the international gallery circuit while prices remain accessible. For more information about Cayla Birk or any of her artworks, please contact us at