Quarles has quickly become known for the jazzy, fluid style of trompe l’oeil painting that she honed at Yale. Her figures look like impossible bodies inhabiting impossible spaces: In constant flux, they bend over, curl around, and fuse into each other; their luminous flesh stretches not just into but also through brightly patterned planes that suggest the surfaces of rooms or outdoor spaces. In When It’ll Dawn on Us, Then Will It Dawn on Us (2018), a mass of figures tiptoes across a surface reminiscent of a dance floor; the unmoored black area is illuminated with an LED-like twinkle of flowers. The bodies could all at once be collapsing onto one another, supporting a collective fall, or emerging from a single soul. Similarly, in one of Quarles’s newest paintings, titled Don’t They Know? It’s the End of tha World (2020), bodies contort into uneasy positions, their twisted limbs hugging ornate window grills that float in their own dimension. Frozen in this captivating dance, the figures could either be crushing or cradling one another.
This dislocation of figures and space blurs boundaries to construct a portrait of a complex but fulfilling selfhood. It creates what Quarles described as “this sense of multiple intimate experiences and touches.” As someone who identifies as queer and racially multiple, she often grapples with expressing the full extent of her intersecting identities. For Quarles, navigating different social conditions can mean self-censoring to fit expectations or having someone mistake who she is. “I find that my skin color, on the one hand, is entirely what makes up my set of experiences because I’m seen as white, and that is very informative of how I’m able to move through the world,” Quarles said. “But on the other hand, it’s also not the totality of my experiences or my identity.”